Saturday, June 18, 2016

Braves ride strong Gant to 3rd straight win

Facing the club that drafted him in the 21st round back in 2011, John Gantearned his first career Major League win, allowing just one run on two hits over 6 2/3 innings to lead the Braves to a 5-1 series-opening victory over the Mets on Friday at Citi Field.
The Braves have now won three straight games, their longest winning streak since taking four in a row from April 15-19 -- their first four wins of the season.
"Our confidence keeps building," Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte said after his team improved to 21-46. "We score some runs and we get more comfortable. We stop thinking about what we're not doing and we just let it fly."
Gant was acquired last season in the deal that sent Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to New York. He began his outing by surrendering a leadoff double to Curtis Granderson, who came around to score on a RBI groundout by Yoenis Cespedes, but he did not give up another hit until Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-out double in the sixth.
Matt Harvey got the start for the Mets and looked strong early, needing just 21 pitches to get through the first two innings. The right-hander ran into some trouble from there, though, surrendering back-to-back RBI doubles in the third to Inciarte and Freddie Freeman, and RBI singles to A.J. Pierzynski and Nick Markakis in the fourth and fifth, respectively, en route to his ninth loss of the season.
"A couple of balls they hit were over the heart of the plate," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "As we all know about pitching, it's about locating your stuff and if you make a mistake over the plate, hopefully they don't do damage and they did."
Remember me? Gant retired 20 of the 22 batters he faced after surrendering Granderson's double and didn't allow his second hit until Cabrera doubled with two outs in the sixth inning. Complimenting his fastball with a vulcan changeup and an effective curveball, the rookie cruised through his second career start with little trouble. He induced three consecutive groundouts to end the first inning and another off Cespedes' bat following Cabrera's double.
"I was just thinking in my head, 'Bear down and don't let them score,'" Gant said. "God willing, it worked out." More >
Back to the drawing board: Harvey had seemingly figured it all out after his horrific start to the season, allowing just two runs over 20 innings in his last three starts, but on Friday he took a step back. Of the seven hits he allowed, four went for extra bases after giving up just two extra-base hits in his last three outings combined. More >
Double trouble: Freeman has been red-hot, going 13-for-25 with three doubles, a triple and three home runs dating back to Monday. But the Braves' first baseman would not have had the chance to deliver the game-winning hit off Harvey without the assistance of Inciarte, who drilled his two-out double on a 96-mph 2-2 fastball from the Mets' hurler. Inciarte has recorded six extra-base hits over his past 45 at-bats. He'd previously totaled four extra-base hits through his first 114 at-bats of the season.
"That was just guys putting good at-bats on [Harvey]," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "They know it's a tough ride when they get in the batter's box against a guy like that. They grinded out some at-bats and didn't miss pitches."
No helping hand: Wilmer Flores was absent from the Mets' starting lineup Friday because of a left hand contusion that he suffered after being hit with a pitch Thursday. The infielder was called on to pinch-hit after the Mets loaded the bases against Chris Withrow in the seventh inning. But he struck out on three pitches against left-handed reliever Hunter Cervenka, who has recorded eight strikeouts while limiting right-handed hitters to one hit in 11 at-bats dating back to May 28.
Pierzynski is 6-for-9 against Harvey this season. The Braves' catcher has more than one hit against just one other pitcher -- Philadelphia's Vince Velasquez (2-for-3).
Freeman beat Antonio Bastardo to first base after hitting a weak ground ball to Mets first baseman James Loney for a two-out single in the seventh. The Mets challenged the call, but after a 2-minute, 27-second review, the safe call was ruled to stand.
Braves: Aaron Blair will take the mound when Atlanta and New York resume this series on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET. Blair has allowed at least six earned runs in three of his past five starts, but he retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced against the Reds on Monday. .
Friday's contest came to an end when James Loney was called for double-play interference sliding into second base after Kevin Plawecki hit a weak groundball to shortstop Erick Aybar. Interference was called because Loney made contact with second baseman Jace Peterson above the knee during the slide.
After the ruling, both Loney and Collins stayed out to discuss the call with the umpiring crew as the Braves trotted into the dugout.
"When you are sliding into somebody and you're that close, your arm can [sometimes] go into them," Loney said. "It wasn't like I was trying to hit him, I was just trying to cover my face."
Mets: Steven Matz (7-3, 2.71 ERA) will try to get back on track against the Braves. In a seven-start stretch from April 17 to May 25, the left-hander went 7-0 while posting a 1.13 ERA, but in his last three outings he is 0-2 with a 3.78 ERA.

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