NEW YORK — Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said his last-place club is approaching the final few weeks of the season as if it were fighting for a wild-card berth.
The Braves look as though they might be ready to do some damage to the New York Mets' actual National League wild-card run.
Atlanta will aim for a second consecutive win over the Mets on Tuesday night, when the NL East rivals meet at Citi Field in the middle game of a three-game series.
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The Braves (59-91) earned an unlikely 7-3 victory Monday. Rookie right-hander Aaron Blair — who entered 0-6 with an 8.23 ERA in 12 major league starts — notched his first big league win with six solid innings. Meanwhile, Mets All-Star right-hander Noah Syndergaard was chased after giving up five runs in 3 2/3 innings.
“It's like we're kind of fighting for (a) wild card, too,” Snitker said of the Braves, who need to win at least four of their final 12 games to avoid the franchise's first 100-loss season since 1988. “We're not playing the games any less hard because we're not playing for (a playoff spot). We're playing to win and putting it out there and leaving it out there every day.”
Despite the loss, the Mets (80-70) remain a game ahead of the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the first NL wild card. The Giants blew a ninth-inning lead and lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1, while the Cardinals moved into a tie for the second wild card by beating the Colorado Rockies 5-3.
“You're going to go into the playoffs looking at Noah Syndergaard as the guy that (has) got to pitch a big game,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Just very surprising tonight (that) that's what happened.
“But if there's any game that we've played in a long time that demonstrates that there's no guarantees and no sure things in baseball, tonight's the game.”
On Tuesday, the Braves should be the team with the pitching advantage as ace right-hander Julio Teheran (5-10, 3.18 ERA) opposes Mets rookie right-hander Robert Gsellman (2-1, 3.08 ERA). While Gsellman will be making just his fifth career start, Teheran is a two-time All-Star with three career shutouts under his belt, including a one-hit masterpiece against the Mets on June 19.
“We go out to win the game, you know what I mean?” Snitker said. “We'll come out tomorrow and expect to win that game. We've got Julio going, he's been pitching pretty good.”
The Mets hope Gsellman can be the one to flip the script on Tuesday. The long-haired 23-year-old, who had just nine starts at Triple-A Las Vegas prior to being recalled Aug. 23, has fared surprisingly since replacing injured left-hander Jonathon Niese in the rotation. Gsellman is 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in four starts and has pitched into the sixth inning three times.
On Sept. 9 at Atlanta, Gsellman allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings during a no-decision. That was his lone career appearance against the Braves.
Teheran is 1-0 with a 0.78 ERA in three starts against the Mets this year, 6-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 14 career games (13 starts) vs. New York