Braves 9, Mets 2

David Ross racked his brain, trying to recall if he’d ever hit a

grand slam.

”Some of the guys were asking me about that,” the Braves

catcher said. ”I can’t remember one in college, the minors –

ever.”

He’s got one now.

Ross’ first career slam capped a seven-run fifth inning made

possible by Luis Castillo’s error, and the Atlanta Braves routed

the New York Mets 9-2 on Tuesday night.

The Mets scored two runs in the top half of the fifth off rookie

Mike Minor (3-0), but the 2-1 lead didn’t last long. Taking

advantage of Castillo’s blunder, the Braves knocked out Jonathon

Niese (8-7).

Castillo let a likely double-play grounder slip between his

legs, and the Braves made New York pay big time. Jason Heyward

followed with a two-run double, Alex Gonzalez had an RBI single and

Ross – Atlanta’s backup catcher getting one of his occasional

starts – cleared the bases by lining his second homer of the season

into the left-field seats.

The slow-running Ross also had a triple, stumbling as he rounded

second while his teammates yukked it up in the dugout.

He was able to take it easy in the fifth.

”It’s nice jogging around the bases rather than running hard

into third,” Ross quipped.

Atlanta has followed last week’s four-game losing streak – its

longest skid since April – with four straight wins. The Braves came

into the night with a three-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL

East. The Phillies had a late game against the Los Angeles

Dodgers.

”It’s a long season,” said Derrek Lee, who reached base four

times on three hits and a walk. ”I think you’re going to have

little blips here and there, but it’s how you respond to them. I

think this team shows its character by bouncing right back.”

Nate McLouth, the Braves’ former starting centerfielder just up

from Triple-A, sparked the seven-run inning by getting plunked with

a pitch as a pinch-hitter.

Omar Infante followed with a slow hopper up the middle – perfect

for turning two – but Castillo let it skip right between his legs

for an error that changed the whole complexion of the game.

”We couldn’t stop the bleeding,” said New York’s David Wright.

”When you face a team that good at home, you can’t give them extra

outs.”

Heyward lined a shot to left-center, bringing in two runners who

shouldn’t have been on base. Martin Prado followed with a single

and Lee walked to load the bases.

Niese struck out Matt Diaz, but Alex Gonzalez singled to right

to make it 4-2. Prado also tried to score, but former Brave Jeff

Francoeur threw him out at the plate. Prado slid around catcher

Henry Blanco, but too wide to touch the plate. Prado had no chance

to get back before Blanco tagged him out.

Francoeur, who had his NL-leading 11th outfield assist, was

traded after the game to the first-place Texas Rangers, just ahead

of the deadline for him to be eligible for postseason play with his

new team.

”It’s an exciting opportunity for me,” said Francoeur, who in

an interesting twist was traded for the second time in his career

while visiting his hometown and facing his original team, the

Braves. ”It’s funny it happened here. Maybe I will be back here in

October.”

Niese couldn’t take advantage of the big defensive play. Ross

ripped into a 2-2 pitch that turned a still-tight game into a

rout.

The Mets took advantage of three walks by Minor to grab a

short-lived lead. Francoeur and Blanco both had sacrifice

flies.

After squandering scoring chances in the second (runner at third

with one out) and the third (Ross’ leadoff triple came to nothing),

the Braves finally broke through in the fourth. Prado led off with

a double and Lee brought him home by singling to left.

Coming off a 12-strikeout performance against the Chicago Cubs,

which tied the Braves’ rookie record, Minor struggled a bit in his

fourth career start. He wasn’t sharp on eight days rest,

surrendering seven hits and three walks while striking out four in

five innings.

”I don’t know if it was the extra time off, but I just couldn’t

throw the ball where I wanted to,” Minor said.

Niese was lifted after Ross’ grand slam, having surrendered 10

hits in 4 2-3 innings. Officially, three of Atlanta’s run were

earned, but it’s likely the Mets starter wouldn’t have given up any

runs in the fifth if not for Castillo’s costly error.

NOTES: It was a feast-or-famine night for Ross, who struck out

in his other two at-bats. … Wright batted second for the first

time since 2007 and just the 15th time in his career. He was

0-for-3 with a walk. … Even with the Braves leading the NL East,

the turnout at Turner Field was less than 20,000 for the second

night in a row. The announced attendance was 18,430. … New York

OF Angel Pagan didn’t play because of tendinitis in right wrist.

… The Mets recalled RHP Jenrry Mejia and added outfielder

outfielder Lucas Duda from Triple-A Buffalo after the game.