Three Cuts: Braves battle back, only to lose in extra innings to Mets

The Atlanta Braves used a three-run eighth inning to take the lead away from the New York Mets, only to watch the Mets answer with a tying run, and win in extras.

Fredi Gonzalez was ejected from Monday's 4-3 loss to the Mets after what he later called "one of the worst calls I've ever seen."

Brad Penner / USA TODAY Sports

With a three-run eighth inning on Monday, the Atlanta Braves dug themselves out of a 2-0 hole in New York against the Mets. But the Mets weren't finished. With a home run in the bottom of the eight, New York forced extra innings -- and won in the bottom of the 11th, when Ruben Tejada hit a grounder up the middle to score Juan Lagares.

Here are three observations from Monday's loss to the Mets:

1. Mike Minor's on track for a career high in HR's allowed -- and he didn't pitch in the month of April

Mike Minor's pitching line on Monday wasn't in the least bit worrisome. Neither was the result. But there sure is one aspect of his game that is a bit off.

Minor threw seven innings and gave up just two runs on two hits. That's a quality start by definition (a quality start is when a starter throws at least six innings and gives up three runs of fewer), and most hurlers would smile every time they stepped on the mound and stingily held a team to two hits.

 

But Minor walked off the mound behind, 2-0, after giving up an RBI double to Travis d'Arnaud in the second inning that plated Eric Campbell (who just happened to walk to lead off the inning), and a two-out solo blast to David Wright in the third inning.

While it would be easy to focus on the run in the second inning that wouldn't have happened had the leadoff guy not been walked, the red flag for Minor comes from the home run he allowed to Wright.

After Monday's start, Minor has given up at least one home run in each of his last six starts, with a total of eight dingers over that span because he gave up two to the Los Angeles Angels on June 15, and two to the Mets on July 1.

To make the matter even darker, think of it this way. Minor has given up eight home runs in his last 30 1/3 innings of work.

With a career flyball rate of 41.5 percent, Minor's never been a pitcher that kept the ball in the park all the time. He gave up 26 home runs in 2012, when he made 30 starts. He followed that season with 22 taters allowed in 2013 in 32 starts.

Even though frequent four-baggers aren't out of the norm for Minor, the frequency in which they are occurring this year is alarming.

In 77 1/3 innings thus far, Minor has allowed 14 home runs. At this pace, if he makes it to 165 innings in 2013 (remember, he missed the month of April), he'll give up 30 home runs, by far a career high.

2. Fredi Gonzalez wants an explanation from the league office

The ninth inning was not a fun experience for Andrelton Simmons.

Not only did he drop a pop fly behind shortstop (he picked the ball up and forced the runner moving from second the third out -- no harm done), he was involved in an extremely controversial play, one that got manager Fredi Gonzalez ejected for arguing.

Chris Johnson picked up a sacrifice bunt attempt from Lagares, and decided to throw to Simmons at second base to force Eric Campbell out. Simmons fielded the ball and threw to first base in an attempt to nail a double play.

Lagares was safe at first because he beat the throw, and after the Mets challenged the play, it was determined that Campbell was safe at second because Simmons came off the bag.

In a double-play situation, middle infielders -- to ensure safety by avoiding collisions -- are allowed to miss touching the base as long as they are "in the neighborhood" of the bag. It's called the "neighborhood play," and it's been around seemingly forever.

It's also not a reviewable play under Major League Baseball rules, which is why Gonzalez was so angry.

"It's one of the worst calls I've ever seen," said Gonzalez. "Luckily it didn't cost us the game there, or anything like that. But, whoever interpreted it at headquarters, or the video replay, it may be one of the worst calls.

"They called it a ball was off the bag, pulled him off the bag. That couldn't have been a better throw. They got away with it. We didn't lose the game there, but it's a bad interpretation, whoever interpreted it. That becomes a neighborhood play. Nobody can tell me that that throw pulled (Simmons) off the bag. I don't care how many replay angles they've got better than I do, it's just a bad call."

Gonzalez said the umpire crew didn't give him an explanation as to why the call was overturned, except that it was determined at the league office that the throw pulled Simmons off the bag. Gonzalez said if that had truly been the case, Johnson would have received the error for the throw, not Simmons.

"Even the scorer got it right," said Gonzalez, who possibly tongue- in-cheek, said that he wanted someone from the league office to call him and tell him how Simmons was pulled off the bag, instead of that being a "neighborhood play."

3. Unpleasantness warning -- It's time to start worrying about B.J. Upton again

No one caught more grief for a slow start to the baseball season than B.J. Upton, who was 62 for 302 (.205) from March through June. But a move to the leadoff spot in the batting order two weeks ago sparked a turnaround of sorts.

Between June 24 and July 5, Upton hit in 11 consecutive games, and the Braves won 10 of them. Upton's streak ended on Sunday in a brutal 0 for 4 manner, and that 0-fer mentality dribbled into Monday's game too.

Upton was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts on Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then went 1 for 6 with two strikeouts on Monday, extra innings saving him from going hitless.

A glass half full optimist will agree that these two games should be downplayed against his previous 11. A realist will argue that going 1 for 10 with five strikeouts is cause for alarm.

If you really care to dig into Upton's recent success, and spin it negatively, that can be easily done. Upton still only maintains a .210 batting average for the season. And even during that 11-game hitting streak, he was mostly getting just one hit per game.

Over the 11-game stretch, Upton had multi-hit efforts just twice. He went 13 for 46 (.283) while enjoying the streak, but still only got on base 31.3 percent of the time, largely in part to 12 strikeouts during that span.