NEW YORK -- The mark of good teams is often beating poor ones. Last year, the Mets fattened up on the Braves, Phillies, Reds, Rockies and others, all of whom finished with losing records. Their renaissance this year dovetailed with the softest portion of their schedule.
But the Braves, a thorn in New York's side for decades, are no longer playing along. In coming from behind to win a 5-4 game over the Mets on Tuesday, the Braves improved to 9-9 against the Mets this season, putting their rival's playoff chances in jeopardy. New York has the same record as fellow top National League Wild Card contenders San Francisco and St. Louis. But the Mets and Cardinals both own a tiebreaker over the Giants, and therefore are tied for the first Wild Card spot.
"I know the Braves, where they sit in the league -- they had a terrible, terrible first half," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "They've got a pretty nice lineup right now. … They're scoring runs. We knew we were going to be in a dogfight."
The common thread in many of those Braves victories has been starting pitcher Julio Teheran, whose seven innings of one-run ball made him 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA against the Mets this season. After allowing Asdrubal Cabrera's RBI double in the third inning, Teheran retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced.
"Last year, I was just OK against them," Teheran said. "This year has been better, so I just went with the same plan as last time."
Atlanta's offense broke through against Robert Gsellman in the sixth, tying the game on a pop single that fell in between Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce, before taking the lead for good on a bases-loaded walk. An inning later, Adonis Garcia gave the Braves some needed insurance with a three-run homer off Jerry Blevins, taking the punch out of a late Mets rally.
"It's a lot more fun when the team's doing well," Garcia said through an interpreter.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED I (don't) got it: It was an outfield miscommunication that poured gasoline on Atlanta's two-run rally in the sixth. After Gsellman allowed a pair of one-out singles and a walk, Matt Kemp lifted a fly ball to right-center that Statcast™ measured at a 79-mph exit velocity and 31-degree launch angle -- a combination that produced no hits in 30 instances dating back to 2015. But neither Bruce nor Granderson made a play on the ball, allowing it to drop in for a hit. The next batter, Nick Markakis, walked to force in the go-ahead run.
"I didn't call it," Granderson said. "Being in center field, it was my ball to be had if I could get to it. But I felt like I was probably going to have to dive for it, and wasn't 100 percent sure if I was going to be able to catch it. Jay, being the right fielder, was waiting for me to say something in that situation, and I didn't. By the time I pulled up, it was too late."
The streaks go on:Freddie Freeman struck out in each of his first two at-bats, but this wouldn't be the night his streaks ended. A sixth-inning walk extended his on-base streak to 40 games, the longest by a Brave since Chipper Jones reached base in 41 straight games in 2008. An inning later, Freeman ripped a double to deep center field off Blevins, extending his hitting streak to 24 games, the longest by a Brave since Dan Uggla hit in 33 straight in 2011. The double was Freeman's National League-leading 79th extra-base hit of the season, the most by a Brave since Jones had 87 in 1999.
Substitute Soup: With Bruce mired in an 0-for-13 funk and a 3-for-38 slump dating back to Sept. 4, Collins opted to pinch-hit Eric Campbell -- a 29-year-old Minor League veteran with no big league plate appearances since May -- for the Mets' prized Trade Deadline acquisition in the eighth. Campbell grounded an RBI single through the left side to make it a one-run game, but two batters later, Travis d'Arnaud stranded the potential tying run on third base.
"It's one of the worst things you can do as a manager is pinch-hit for a star -- especially one of the elite power hitters in the game," Collins said. "But my job is to try to win the game." More >
Supporting Teheran: A lack of run support has been a common theme of Teheran's season, the reason he had only five wins despite a 3.18 ERA in his first 27 starts. The Braves, who scored two runs or fewer in 11 of those 27 games, seemed ready to continue the trend when they were blanked for the first five innings Tuesday. But two runs in the sixth and three in the seventh turned it into one of Teheran's better-supported efforts this season.
"It was nice to get him a win," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. More >
"I'm just proud and happy with the way the guys are playing. We're not playing like our record." -- Snitker
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Collins kept Blevins in the game to face Freeman in the seventh inning, but it should come as no surprise that Freeman doubled to deep center field. Freeman is now 4-for-5 off Blevins this season, and 7-for-12 in his career. Freeman is hitting .291 against lefties this season, compared to .307 against right-handers, although he has shown much more power against right-handers.
Kemp's sixth-inning single gave him his 100th RBI of the season. Kemp has driven in 100 each of the last two years and four times in his 11 Major League seasons. He has 31 RBIs in 46 games since the Braves acquired him from the Padres.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves: The Braves will look to complete the three-game sweep behind rookie right-hander Ryan Weber (1-1, 5.46 ERA), who will make his second Major League start this season in Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. ET finale at Citi Field.
Mets:Bartolo Colon (14-7, 3.14) will look to reach the 15-win plateau for the second time in three seasons as a Met when he takes the mound for Wednesday's series finale against the Braves. Over his last six starts, Colon is 4-0 with a 2.29 ERA.