Three Cuts: Braves busted by Mets, suffer 3rd straight loss
AUG 26, 2014 11:26p ET
1. Alex Wood pitched superbly in defeat -- again
Of Wood's last 10 outings (including Tuesday), dating back to July 6, the Braves have scored a total of 33 runs -- and that includes a 7- and 8-spot against the Athletics and Phillies, respectively.
It's a wonder the second-year southpaw only has a 3-4 record in that span.
On Tuesday, Wood weathered an early torrent, allowing an RBI single in the second inning and then surrendering a two-run homer to center fielder Juan Lagares in the 4th, boosting the Mets' lead to 3-1.
After that, Wood (3.09 seasonal ERA) ruled the roost, retiring his final 12 batters before handing the baton to Jordan Walden (three straight outs). All told, the Braves starter allowed just three runs and five hits, while posting six strikeouts over seven strong innings (one walk).
How good was Wood? The Mets' 1-4 hitters were a dubious 0 for 13 on the night, with Curtis Granderson reaching base on a mere walk.
2. The Braves were continually on the brink of a big inning, even if it never materialized
Atlanta registered more hits and walks -- but fewer first-pitch strikes and actual strikeouts -- than New York's hitters, but the Braves were ultimately undone by two things:
a) The lack of a timely hit against Mets starter Dillon Gee.
b) Three double plays (two from Chris Johnson, one from Evan Gattis) that effectively killed three potential rallies.
Put it all together, and it's understandable to learn why, during the post-game media session, some Braves were asked about their knack for playing down to their competition.
Relative to this particular division rival, the Braves have dropped four of their last five outings at cavernous Citi Field. On the flip side, the Nationals own a 10-2 seasonal edge over the Mets.
The Gattis double play was particularly vexing: His 6-4-3 ball diluted a Braves rally that began with Justin Upton (one run, one RBI, three hits) legging out an infield single and Chris Johnson drawing a walk in the 7th.
Plus, Tommy La Stella belted an RBI single to right field, immediately on the heels of Gattis's gaffe (for lack of a better term), leaving some to wonder what could have been for an Atlanta team that trailed by just two.
3. After today, we likely won't bring up the Braves' chances of repeating as NL East champs
Even with its modest two-game slide, Washington (75-56, best record in the Senior Circuit) remains on pace for 93 wins, meaning Atlanta (68-64) would have to go 25-5 down the stretch ... just for the honor of tying the Nationals for the NL East crown.
So really, why even go there? Especially since the Nationals pitchers have yielded five-plus runs just three times since Aug. 9 (spanning 17 games).
No, the Braves' primary focus should be landing one of the coveted wild-card slots; and during the pregame airing of Braves LIVE, it was good to see manager Fredi Gonzalez acknowledge how his club is fully aware of where it stands ... and where it may be going come the first week of October.
At the time of this writing, St. Louis (71-60, WC #1) and San Francisco (68-62, WC #2) hold slim advantages over Atlanta and Pittsburgh (identical 68-64 marks) for the wild-card slots.
It's worth mentioning here (again and again): Of their final 19 games, the Giants are staring at 13 eminently doable dates with the Diamondbacks (55-76) and Padres (60-70) -- bottom feeders in the National League.
And of the Cardinals' final 19 games, the 2011 world champs are looking at a glorious run of three games against the struggling Brewers ... and 16 outings against NL dregs like the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Reds (twice).
In other words, the Braves absolutely cannot afford to keep losing to teams that are on the path to nowhere -- aside from developing prospects and creating a false momentum buzz for next year.
It could be Atlanta's true downfall, when taking stock of this club six weeks from now.