Mets defeat Braves, extend lead in NL East

Mets defeat Braves, extend lead in NL East

ATLANTA -- Yoenis Cespedes capped a three-hit night with a two-run homer and Steven Matz proved effective while helping the Mets increase their lead in the National League East race with a 5-1 win over the Braves on Friday night at Turner Field.

Cespedes provided the Mets some breathing room with the two-run homer he hit in the ninth inning off Arodys Vizcaino. The Mets' center fielder also drove in the game's first run with a third-inning double and added a fifth-inning single that helped put Curtis Granderson in position to score on a balk charged against Braves starter Matt Wisler, who was charged with two earned runs and seven hits over six innings.

Statcast: Cespedes' titanic HR

"The only thing that I can tell you is what Matt Harvey told me on the bench tonight: 'I don't know if there's another league higher [for Cespedes],'" Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I think he's enjoying this as much as everyone else is. He's caught up in it."

Daniel Castro's first career home run -- a solo shot in the fifth inning -- accounted for the only run charged to Matz, who navigated his way through trouble while allowing six hits and issuing two walks over five innings. The Mets rookie has allowed two runs or fewer through each of his first four career starts.

The Mets have won five straight games and now hold an 8 1/2-game lead over the second-place Nationals in the NL East race. With 21 games remaining, New York has reduced its magic number to 14.

Meanwhile, the Braves have lost 22 of their past 25 games, including each of the past 10 played in Atlanta.

"You get frustrated and you [know some players] aren't ready to play in the big leagues, but you can't get mad at that," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You get mad when there is a lack of effort, a lack of hustle and a lack of trying. We don't have that."

Leading man:
Mets leadoff batter Granderson was the first hitter in the inning in all five of his plate appearances. He grounded out to the pitcher in the first, walked and scored on Cespedes' RBI double in the third, poked a single through the left side of the infield to start the fifth (later scoring on Wisler's balk), struck out against Atlanta reliever Matt Marksberry to start the seventh and led off the ninth with a walk against Vizcaino, scoring on Cespedes' two-run blast.

Granderson scores on balk

Encouraging progress: It appeared Wisler benefited from the relief appearance he was given on Sunday to halt his recent struggles. The rookie right-hander looked more aggressive as he minimized damage after encountering a couple of early threats. He was victimized by Cespedes' double in the third and charged with a balk after he and catcher Christian Bethancourt could not get on the same page in the fifth inning. Still, he looked much better than he had while posting a 9.49 ERA in his previous seven starts, dating back to Aug. 1.

Wisler's six solid innings

"I felt good," Wisler said. "I've got a lot to work on, there was still a lot of guys on base, but I felt better out there tonight. I not only felt better, I felt confident attacking guys the whole game."

One big 'K': The Braves mounted one real attempt at a rally in the eighth, when they put two runners on against righty reliever Tyler Clippard. But with two outs, Clippard struck out Bethancourt on three pitches -- a 90-mph fastball down, a 91-mph a little higher and an 80-mph changeup that Bethancourt swung through to end the inning. More >

Clippard ends jam, protects lead

A flourish of gems: Michael Bourn began the sixth inning by crashing against the center-field wall to rob Michael Conforto of what would have at least been a leadoff double. Moments later, Castro added to his memorable night by diving to his right behind the second-base bag to snare Ruben Tejada's sharp grounder. The Braves' second baseman then quickly fired to first base to record the out. More >

Statcast: Bourn's terrific leap

"I feel really calm, really really content, because I can produce and help this team to win. And everything is clicking." -- Cespedes

"Wisler was outstanding, he really was. He pounded the strike zone and made pitches when he had to. I saw a lot of good stuff from him." -- Gonzalez

The Braves entered July 8 at 42-42 and just a half-game behind the second-place Mets. Since then, New York has produced a 37-19 record, and Atlanta has gone 14-44.

Mets: Rookie right-hander Noah Syndergaard (8-6, 3.31 ERA) starts for the Mets at Turner Field on Saturday night at 7:10 p.m. ET. Syndergaard has been solid at home, but on the road, he's 1-5 with a 4.91 ERA. He hasn't pitched past the fifth inning in six of his 10 starts away from Citi Field, including the past four.

Braves: Atlanta will counter with Williams Perez (5-6, 5.42 ERA), who will be attempting to build off the success he had Monday, when he limited the Phillies to two runs over seven innings. Perez entered that start against Philadelphia having produced a 9.50 ERA over his past seven starts. .

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for John Donovan is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.