Soroka, Riley lead Braves past deGrom and skidding Mets, 6-2
NEW YORK (AP) — About 25 minutes after the game ended, New York Mets leadoff hitter Jeff McNeil was still sitting at his locker in full uniform. Just outside the clubhouse, all the lights were out on the Mets' side of the ground floor at Citi Field.
The darkness in the hallway certainly seemed appropriate.
Streaking rookie Mike Soroka outpitched Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, and the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves got a two-run homer from fellow youngster Austin Riley in a 6-2 victory Friday night over the plummeting Mets.
"Felt good. Last four or five days for me have been a little scuffy," Riley said. "I needed it."
Rookie slugger Pete Alonso hit his 28th home run for New York (37-46), which lost its season-worst sixth straight and fell 12 games behind the Braves. The fourth-place Mets returned home after blowing multiple-run leads in five consecutive defeats on a 3-8 trip, but fared no better at Citi Field while getting booed by their own fans.
The skid began with a gut-wrenching loss to the Cubs in Chicago that was followed by pitcher Jason Vargas threatening a reporter during a confrontation that made embarrassing national headlines. Vargas and manager Mickey Callaway, who also cursed at the reporter, were fined. Callaway and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon apologized.
The staggering Mets have not won since, and their season is slipping away. They've dropped 12 of 16 overall.
"Right now it's tough," outfielder Dominic Smith said. "We've just got to man up and figure it out and start winning some games."
"It is someone every night, it seems," Callaway said.
The 21-year-old Soroka (9-1) allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings to win his ninth decision in a row after dropping his season debut. He matched a Braves rookie record for wins before the All-Star break and improved to 4-0 with a 2.19 ERA in four career starts against the Mets.
The right-hander struck out four, walked none and showed no ill effects after exiting his previous start early because he was hit on the right forearm by a pitch.
"I think I threw only 68 (pitches) in the game before that, so it's almost like a nice little blow just to kind of take it easy," said Soroka, who won his major league debut at Citi Field last season. "I felt like my stuff was as sharp as it's been all year."
New York shaved the deficit to 3-2 on an RBI single by Tomás Nido that chased Soroka, who made another strong case to be included on the NL All-Star team Sunday.
The Mets loaded the bases with one out but Anthony Swarzak, traded by New York to Seattle last December, struck out McNeil on a pitch in the dirt and retired Alonso on a liner to left field.
"Awesome," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's been pitching the eighth but right there, kind of felt like the game was on the line right there. He came in, did a wonderful job again."
Nick Markakis doubled in the second and Riley, another impressive rookie, hit his 13th homer off deGrom (4-7), who gave up three runs and six hits over six innings.
"That's a good one for your book right there I'll tell you, you get a guy like that," Snitker said. "Just keeps getting big hits."
Josh Donaldson had a sacrifice fly in the third.
Ian Anderson, a top Braves pitching prospect, struck out 14 over seven shutout innings in a combined no-hitter for Double-A Mississippi against Jackson.
In a pregame ceremony Saturday, the Mets will commemorate the 50th anniversary of their 1969 World Series championship, with about 15 members of that team expected back. A little earlier, Jerry Koosman, Cleon Jones and Jerry Grote are among the former players planning to be on hand when the Miracle Mets receive the key to the city from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It's all part of a big weekend celebration that includes a reenactment of the '69 World Series parade Saturday, complete with classic cars. There were replica jersey, pennant and ring giveaways scheduled — even orange 1969 world champs pennants painted in foul territory, plus 1969 Shea Stadium font on the Citi Field scoreboard Friday night. The day before, the club announced plans for a Tom Seaver statue outside the ballpark, and the stadium address was officially changed to 41 Seaver Way in honor of the Hall of Fame pitcher's uniform number.
Braves: RHP Kevin Gausman (plantar fasciitis) is scheduled to pitch to OF Ender Inciarte (lumbar strain) in a simulated game Sunday at the team's complex in Florida. ... SS Dansby Swanson was rested until entering for defense in the eighth.
Mets: Right-handed reliever Jeurys Familia (shoulder) tossed 1 1/3 perfect innings with two strikeouts in a rehab appearance for Class A Brooklyn.
New York signed third-round draft pick Matt Allan, who received a $2.5 million bonus. The right-hander from Seminole High School in Florida was rated a top-20 talent but lasted until the 89th selection.
Mets LHP Steven Matz (5-6, 4.85 ERA) starts Saturday against RHP Julio Teheran (5-6, 3.94). Matz is 5-1 with a 3.40 ERA in nine starts vs. the Braves, who finally beat him in Atlanta on June 19. Teheran is 10-8 with a 2.62 ERA in 27 games against the Mets.