Atlanta center fielder Ender Inciarte displayed impressive instincts and hustle, willing himself around the bases to give the Braves a lead they would preserve en route to notching their second four-game winning streak of the season with Saturday night's 4-3 win over the Mets at Citi Field.
Inciarte sped into second base to begin the eighth inning with a double and then alertly took third base when right fielder Curtis Granderson caught Jeff Francoeur's fly ball and unhurriedly threw it back toward the infield. Inciarte then raced home with the decisive run when Addison Reed's wild pitch rolled just a few feet behind Mets catcher Rene Rivera, who was ready to apply the tag before the ball was knocked out of his glove.
"That was two of the gutsiest, greatest baserunning plays I've ever seen, I think," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's just kind of taking advantage of the situation and not taking anything for granted and just letting things play out and reacting."
The Mets, who have lost five of their past seven games, grabbed an early three-run lead, with Yoenis Cespedes homering in the third inning and Wilmer Flores highlighting a two-run fourth with another solo shot off Braves rookie right-hander Aaron Blair. But Atlanta then tallied one run over each of the next three innings. Francoeur hit a two-out homer in the sixth off Steven Matz, who allowed two runs over six innings, and Tyler Flowers opened the seventh with a game-tying homer off Jim Henderson.
"This is a tough one," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You can't lose these kind of games. You got to win these games. When times are tough, these are big games."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Timely power: After the Braves dented the scoreboard with Chase d'Arnaud's two-out RBI single in the fifth, Francoeur and Flowers hit their home runs within a span of six pitches. This marks just the seventh time this season the Braves have hit two home runs in a game, but they've now done so three times within their past nine games. Flowers now stands withFreddie Freeman as the only Atlanta players who have hit more than three homers.
Access denied: After Flores reached on an error by shortstop Erick Aybar, Loney followed with a double off Jim Johnson, who was pitching because Atlanta's closer, Arodys Vizcaino, had pitched the previous three days. Third-base coach Tim Teufel opted to send Flores home, but the throw from the cutoff man Aybar beat Flores to the plate, preventing the tying run from scoring. On the ensuing at-bat, Ty Kelly hit a deep fly ball that likely would have been enough to plate Flores had he remained at third.
"I'm always ready," Flores said. "I was running as hard as I could, because you never know when they are going to send you." More >
Encouraging effort: After allowing at least six runs in three of his past five starts, Blair took advantage of the chance to get at least one more. Blair surrendered the solo homers to Cespedes and Flores but retired each of the final eight batters he faced and issued just one one walk while completing six innings for the first time since April 29.
Unwanted welcome: Matz exited after the sixth with a one-run lead, but Henderson did not allow that advantage to last long. On his first pitch out of the bullpen, Henderson fired a 91-mph fastball to Flowers that was promptly launched 424 feet into the seats in left field, and he was charged with his second blown save of the season. More >
QUOTABLE "We've been beat up pretty good this year, and I think to see us fight back and do what we're doing here says a lot about our team and our coaches. I loved seeing [bench coach Terry Pendleton] get tossed tonight. ... It fired us up." -- Francoeur, on Pendleton being ejected after arguing that a balk should have been called on Matz in the fifth inning
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS The Braves sit 14 1/2 games behind the second-place Mets in the National League East, but dating back to May 28, Atlanta is 9-12 and New York is 8-12. .
WHAT'S NEXT Braves:Julio Teheran will take the mound when this three-game series concludes on Sunday afternoon. Teheran has posted a 2.13 ERA over his past 11 starts. This will be the first time the right-hander has faced the Mets this season. .
Mets: Right-hander Jacob deGrom will get the start in Sunday's series finale against the Braves at 1:10 p.m. ET. deGrom has recorded four consecutive quality starts despite having a 0-2 record over that span. In those starts he has a 2.42 ERA and has struck out 35 batters over 26 innings.