Chipper Jones tossed the ball to first base for the final out and pumped his fist emphatically.
After almost 3 1/2 hours of back-and-forth baseball in the steamed-up sauna that was Citi Field on Sunday, this was no ordinary win for the Atlanta Braves.
Jones hit a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning and Atlanta outlasted the Mets 6-5 in a wild game that included injuries to New York’s top two hitters, Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy.
”It was a good win for us. We needed it. Badly,” Jones said.
Jason Heyward, Alex Gonzalez and Jose Constanza homered early for the Braves, who finally solved rookie Dillon Gee in handing the Mets their sixth loss in seven games. Dan Uggla extended his career-best hitting streak to 28 games.
It was the first major league homer for Constanza – he also got his first stolen base, spiking Murphy hard in the process on a clean but awkward play. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Murphy has a substantial injury to his left knee and will be placed on the disabled list.
Reyes, the NL batting leader, was lifted in the second because of a stiff left hamstring, the same spot that landed him on the DL last month.
Alderson said he thought Reyes hurt himself running out a first-inning grounder and it appears he has a mild hamstring pull, the same injury that cost him more than two weeks in July.
X-rays on Murphy’s leg were negative, but the team was waiting for MRI results on both players.
”We’ve been struggling offensively as it is. Now we lose a guy hitting .335 and another guy hitting .320, obviously that’s going to be difficult to overcome,” said third baseman David Wright, who found himself filling in at shortstop Sunday for the first time in his major league career. ”We know it’s going to be a tremendous uphill battle to try to score runs.”
Jason Bay had three hits, three runs and a stolen base for New York during a perfect day at the plate. He singled leading off the ninth but was erased when he ran into a tag on Angel Pagan’s double-play grounder.
After a walk, closer Craig Kimbrel retired Nick Evans on a grounder for his 34th save in 39 chances. A fired-up Jones, a Mets nemesis throughout his stellar career, pumped his fist after making the throw from third to end it.
”It never gets old. He likes playing against this team and especially in those kinds of situations,” Uggla said. ”That’s what he’s been doing for years. If there’s anybody who knows how to play under pressure, it’s Chipper.”
A humid, 86-degree day turned into a painful one for the Mets when Reyes and Murphy went down. New York made three errors and lost two of three in the series against the NL wild card leaders.
With the score tied at 5, Gonzalez opened the ninth with a single off Bobby Parnell (3-4). Gonzalez advanced on Constanza’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Jones’ single through the right side.
”We’re up 5-2, I put it in shutdown mode,” Jones said. ”I wasn’t expecting to be in the game, really, but you know, pressed into duty and just came up at the right time, good situation. Got one in the hole.”
Jonny Venters (6-1) worked a hitless inning for the win.
Braves lefty Mike Minor was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett for the fourth time this season to start in place of injured All-Star Jair Jurrjens, who went on the 15-day disabled list Saturday because of a strained right knee.
Minor left with a 5-2 lead and two outs in the sixth, but the bullpen couldn’t hold it.
”I thought he did a nice job. I thought he deserved a better fate, really,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
First, Constanza’s error in left field led to a pair of runs. Murphy entered as a pinch-hitter and drove in one with an infield single off Eric O’Flaherty, a dribbler up the third-base line. Willie Harris cut it to 5-4 with an RBI single.
Bay scored the tying run in the seventh when left fielder Martin Prado missed an attempt at a sliding catch, misplaying Pagan’s sinking liner into an RBI double.
Prado moved from third base to left field when Jones came off the bench in a sixth-inning double switch.
After his RBI single, Murphy stayed in the game at second base – but didn’t last long. The injuries forced Mets manager Terry Collins to get creative with his defensive alignments.
In the seventh, he moved outfielder Scott Hairston to second base. By the eighth, Hairston was back in right field and Wright was playing shortstop.
”It felt like it was about a 12-hour game,” said Mets rookie Justin Turner, who went from second base to shortstop and back to second base. ”We felt like we literally just walked off a battlefield, with the heat and all the switching around and the grinding and coming back and tying it up. It’s tough, mentally and physically.”
NOTES: Uggla extended his hitting streak with a two-out single in the eighth. … Freddie Freeman went 0 for 4, ending his 20-game hitting streak. … Derek Lowe is on the mound when Atlanta opens a three-game series Monday night in Florida. … SS-2B Ruben Tejada will be recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to take Murphy’s spot on the roster. Alderson said the Mets would wait and see about Reyes’ injury before deciding if another roster move is needed. … Gee entered 2-1 with a 1.52 ERA in four outings against Atlanta, including two wins and a 0.54 ERA in three starts this year. He was originally slated to start Wednesday night against Florida, but that game was rained out.