Three Cuts: Kimbrel, O'Flaherty stumble; Braves fall to Mets
The Braves fought back, but the bullpen faltered as they fell to the Mets, says Cory McCartney.
By CORY McCARTNEYFS South
ATLANTA -- Taking three cuts after the
Braves' 7-5, 10-inning loss to the Mets Friday at Turner Field.
1. The best just wasn't enough
First it was Eric O'Flaherty, then Craig Kimbrel and then they got to Jordan Walden.
The backbone of a Braves bullpen that, statistically, stands as the best in baseball, allowed runs in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings as the Mets opened the three-game set with a 7-5 win.
To put it in perspective, this was a group that had yielded 17 runs in the last 79 innings, giving up four in a span of three.
"Usually, we give our guys a lead, they're going to shut it down," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "They ended up getting four runs on our bullpen from the eighth inning on and that doesn't usually happen."
With Atlanta leading 4-3 in the eighth, O'Flaherty gave up solo home run to Marlon Byrd, and while the Braves would pull ahead off an Evan Gattis homer in the bottom of that inning, that lead disappear as David Wright homered off Kimbrel. Then, the Mets took over for good in the 10th when Ruben Tejada hit a two-out, RBI single off Walden, before adding another run Walden was responsible for with Luis Avilan on the mound.
For Kimbrel, who was touched for his seventh home run in opponents' last 175 plate appearances, a span of 172 innings, it would be his second blown save in 10 days.
"This was a tough one because you want to win the first game of a series, definitely in your division," Kimbrel said. "We had plenty of opportunities to do it, our bullpen just couldn't hold it down tonight."
2. Minor adjustments
It wasn't a pretty start.
Three batters after Ruben Tejada had jumped on Mike Minor for a leadoff double, John Buck homered. Then the Mets would make it 3-0 as Lucas Duda opened the second inning with a solo home run.
Minor was arguably the Braves' best pitcher for most of the first month of the season, yielding a combined five runs and just one homer over 25 innings in his first four starts and he had an absurd 21:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
But in his last outing in Detroit on Sunday, the left-hander struggled, giving up six runs -- the most he'd allowed since May 16 -- and two home runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings in a loss to the Tigers.
Based on the first two frames against the Mets, this appeared to be a continuation of that rough night.
Minor would settle in, though, retiring 18 consecutive batters after that Duda shot to finish with a line of seven innings with three hits, three earned runs, zero walks and four strikeouts.
"I struggled pretty bad early on just trying to find location, but after that I just started balancing fastballs and trying to challenge those guys," Minor said. "I just threw a bunch of fastballs at them, I didn't throw a whole lot of off-speed stuff after the second inning."
The rebound, both after the first innings vs. the Mets and that outing against the Tigers, should at least serve as another remind that we're still seeing the Minor that boasts a 2.50 ERA in 20 starts since the 2012 All-Star break, which ranks among the lowest in the majors.
3. B.J. Upton comes alive
While his brother Justin became the first Braves player to leading the majors in home runs in April since Dale Murphy in 1985, B.J. struggled. He carried a .143 average into May, and after going 0-for-6 in the last two games of the Nationals series, saw that figure fall to .134.
He came into Friday night without a hit in his last 21 at-bats and it had been six games since he had an extra-base hit, a span in which he went 4-for-43. With a minus-0.5 WAR, he ranked 20th among Braves batters, trailing pitchers Kris Medlen and Mike Minor.
But with a third-inning double and a single in the fifth, Upton got his breakthrough, delivering his first hit since April 27 and his first multi-hit game since April 18 and the fourth of the season.
He's still well below the Mendoza Line at .165, but for a guy that has struggled with the burden of the richest free-agent contract in Braves history on his shoulders, this was a positive sign he's ready to put his April frustrations behind him.