NEW YORK – Evan Gattis got his first taste of the Big Apple on Friday night, and by now no one should’ve been surprised that he took a big bite.
The rookie phenom’s two-run, two-out, pinch-hit single in the eighth inning snapped a 3-all tie against the Mets, and looked like it would lift the Braves to their seventh consecutive win.
But the Mets tied it again with two runs in the bottom of the eighth in deteriorating conditions, and the game was suspended after a lengthy delay. It will be resumed at 6:10 p.m. Saturday, before the regularly scheduled 7:15 p.m. game.
Braves center fielder B.J. Upton’s fielding error on Daniel Murphy’s two-out RBI single in the eighth allowed Ruben Tejada to advance to third base, and he scored the tying run on Anthony Varvaro’s wild pitch in the dirt…er, mud.
“They were trying to get the game in, to complete that inning,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who said he didn’t have a problem with the umpires continuing play in the bottom of the eighth. “That’s the protocol. Try to get it through, try to keep playing and finish the inning. And give the home team either a chance to come back in the bottom of the inning or us to (record) three outs.
“If that happens and we’ve got the lead, and we end up having a three-hour rain delay or whatever and then they want to bang it (rain out), it’s an official game. So that’s what they were trying to do. Actually I thought it would benefit us, because we had the lead. I think Varvaro punched out the side, and we still gave up two runs.”
The series opener became the first suspended game in Mets history, and was also delayed 16 minutes before the first pitch because of rain.
Working without their three top setup men, all on the disabled list, the Braves failed to protect a lead. Varvaro walked John Buck to start the eighth inning, and Ruben Tejada hit a one-out single as the rain intensified. Varvaro got a strikeout for the second out, but Murphy singled to center and Upton didn’t field the bounce cleanly.
“I’m looking for any dry spot on my uniform to wipe my hand,” Varvaro said of the conditions. “I’m even going in my jersey. As soon as I’d get the ball I’d try to throw it, and it was just slipping out of my hand. I mean, I’m just trying to throw it over the plate.”
The umpires were trying to get through the eighth inning, since it would have been a complete game if either team was ahead at that point. The game could not have ended with the Braves ahead 5-3 without the Mets batting in the eighth, since the Braves had taken the lead in the top of the inning.
“I don’t know if the pitcher or the hitter would have the advantage or disadvantage,” Gonzalez said. “One guy’s trying to throw a wet ball and the other guy’s trying to hit it with all the rain in his face. So you just don’t know.”
Play could have been halted before the bottom of the eighth and reverted to the score after seven innings for an official game, but only if one team had been ahead. The score was tied after seven innings.
Things changed quickly for the Braves. In the top of the eighth, it looked like Gattis had sent them to another win with another clutch pinch-hit. The rookie is a stunning 5-for-7 with three homers and eight RBIs as a pinch-hitter, and he moved into the team lead with 29 RBIs in only 122 at-bats.
Freddie Freeman had a two-run homer in the first inning for a 2-0 lead, giving him 28 RBIs, tied with Justin Upton.
After Dan Uggla drew a two-out walk to load the bases with the score 3-all in the eighth, Gattis strode to the plate. His grand slam in Wednesday’s series finale against Minnesita served as an exclamation point on the Braves’ perfect 6-0 homestand.
He didn’t hit it out of the park Friday, but hit it plenty. After checking his swing twice and fouling off three consecutive pitches to start his at-bat, Gattis took a pitch, then lined a single off right-hander Greg Burke. It was the fifth go-ahead or game-tying hit for Gattis in the eighth inning or later, equaling San Francisco’s Brandon Belt for the major league lead.
But it became the third potential game-winning RBI for Gattis to be erased by a blown lead. He still was tied for fourth in the NL with six game-winning RBI before Friday.
Uggla is one of three Braves regulars hitting below the Mendoza Line (.200). But he’s still a threat to hit a home run at any time, as he did Friday when Kris Medlen and the team needed it badly. His seventh-inning leadoff homer was his ninth of the season and sparked an offense that had sleep-walked for five innings.
Medlen didn’t get much help from left fielder Upton, who misplayed a couple of balls that played a part in two Mets runs. And after Upton got a bad read on Daniel Murphy’s leadoff double in the fifth inning, Medlen didn’t help his own cause with a two-strike, two-out hanging curveball to Marlon Byrd.
Medlen got ahead in the count 0-2 against Byrd, before the Sprayberry High graduate fouled off a pitch and stroked a 1-2 curveball to center to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. John Buck also hit a leadoff homer in the fourth, the Mets catcher’s 11th.
“I really just go back to two pitches,” said Medlen, charged with seven hits and three runs in six innings, with one walk and nine strikeouts. “I felt like the righty-righty changeup to Buck, the one he hit out, was a good pitch, a pitch I’ve thrown him a lot and been successful with. We used it the first at-bat and that second at-bat I think he might have been sitting on it.”
Freeman’s two-run homer in the first inning was his third of the season. The Mets answered with a run in the first when what appeared by a catchable bloop by Lucas Duda dropped in front of Justin Upton for an RBI single.
“The first-inning fly ball with Duda (bloop hit) that scored the run, it’s pretty tough with the wind and everthing else,” Medlen said. “You could see Justin at the very end kind of struggle with it, because I think the ball kind of came back a little bit. I was one pitch away from pitching out of a leadoff double to Murphy. I needed to execute that curveball to Byrd better.”
The Braves swept a homestand against the Dodgers and Twins, but they had lost five of the past six road games and 13 of 19 since a 7-0 road start. They had scored two runs or fewer in five of their past six road losses before Friday, when Freeman’s first-inning homer was the only damage they did in six innings against Mets starter Jeremy Hefner.
The Mets had lost all eight of Hefner’s starts before Friday, and he had a 6.19 ERA in his previouis three starts while allowing 18 hits and seven walks in 16 innings. He allowed three hits and two walks in six innings against the Braves, who got only an infield single and a walk against him after the first inning.