Three Cuts: Simmons’ web gem helps Braves trump Mets

Thanks to shortstop Andrelton Simmons (long-range assist in the 8th inning), the 69-64 Braves kept pace with the Pirates in the battle for National League wild-card slots (trailing the Cardinals and Giants).

Mark J. Rebilas

OK, so Travis d’Arnaud isn’t the fastest runner on his team, or maybe even the Mets’ swiftest catcher.

But that doesn’t detract from Simmons’ insane play with two outs in the eighth, going deep in the hole (by third base) to field a hot-shot grounder and then firing an on-target one-hopper to Freddie Freeman to end the inning.

Simmons’ so-called "Play of the Year" (see the impetuous Tweet below) prevented New York from scoring the game-tying run.

It also enabled Braves closer Craig Kimbrel to record his 39th save of the season — matching the National League-best work of Francisco Rodriguez (Brewers) and Trevor Rosenthal (Cardinals).

Prior to Kimbrel’s appearance, his predecessor Walden was scuffling a bit, allowing an RBI single to outfielder Juan Lagares with zero outs in the 8th. By all accounts, the Mets — with runners on first and second base — were perfectly positioned to push at least one more run across the board.

But a Lucas Duda double play (4-6-3) took some pressure off Walden, who only needed to retire d’Arnaud to escape a shaky situation and effectively hand the baton to Kimbrel.

Atlanta Braves: Up Next

That’s where Simmons’ greatness entered the picture: On contact, he sprinted hard to his right and cleanly fielded d’Arnaud’s shot, took two hard steps toward the left-field stands and then pivoted, leapt and used his rocket arm to clinch the surreal assist.

Conservatively, it was one of Simmons’ top-five defensive plays of 2014. But given the game circumstances and Atlanta’s spot in the National League wild-card chase … Wednesday’s web gem was easily the Braves’ most crucial throw-out of the season.

All in a day’s work, huh?

"It always seems like there’s another one," beamed Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez after the game, when asked if Simmons’ gem was his best defensive moment of the season.

During the media discussion, Gonzalez admitted that he initially thought d’Arnaud’s hot-shot grounder was a base hit, knotting the game at 3. But his whiz at shortstop saved the night.

This night marked the 22nd time Teheran (one hit, three runs allowed over 6 1/3 innings) has surrendered three or less earned runs this season — eclipsing Kershaw’s current tally of 20.

(To be fair, Kershaw has only logged 21 starts to date … but still, it’s a good reflection of Teheran’s substantial progress at age 23.)

Teheran (four strikeouts, two walks) didn’t have his proverbial best stuff against the Mets, even though only five batters reached base. He apparently tweaked his ankle (or leg) early in the outing, but it also didn’t hinder the right-hander from reaching the following objectives:

On the positive side, Atlanta’s 1-3 hitters each tallied one run and one hit for the night. This includes Jason Heyward, who led things off with an opposite-field homer.

But after that, there wasn’t a lot of pop in the Braves’ bats. In fact, they needed a costly/timely error from Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada to score the third run (and eventual game-winner).

Counting Wednesday’s winning effort, the Braves (trail the Giants by 1 game for Wild Card #2) have now scored three or less runs 73 times … or roughly 55 percent of their games this season.