Facing a National League East contender for the first time since the season’s opening series, the Braves fell to the New York Mets on Thursday night at SunTrust Park.
The Braves lost 6-3, just their second loss in their past nine games but their fourth loss in four games this season against expected NL East contenders.
The Braves came up short despite three hits by Ronald Acuna, including a first-inning RBI triple and an eighth-inning home run that traveled a career-long 462 feet onto the left-field concourse. It was Acuna’s third consecutive multi-hit game and his third consecutive game with a home run.
“It obviously felt good,” Acuna said of his massive home run, registered at 111.5 mph off the bat. “You want to hit homers when you get a chance, but I feel like I could have hit it a little better.”
The game marked the Braves’ first encounter with one of the teams expected to battle them for the division championship since losing three consecutive games to the Philadelphia Phillies to start the season. The Braves have played one other intra-division opponent in the early going, winning two of three last weekend from the Miami Marlins, who are not expected to contend (currently 3-10).
The division standings are as congested as predicted. Entering play Thursday, the Braves, Mets and Phillies were tied for first place with 7-4 records and the Washington Nationals were one game back. Now the Mets are in sole possession of first, at least for a day.
The Braves, who are 5-0 against out-of-division opponents (the Cubs and Rockies), have three more games against the Mets coming up on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
The Mets took a 3-1 lead in the second inning Thursday on Amed Rosario’s three-run home run off Kevin Gausman, who walked the first two batters of the inning and gave up the homer one out later.
“One pitch kind of got too much of the plate,” Gausman said of the pitch to Rosario, “and unfortunately there were guys on base because I’d had a struggle finding the zone early in the game.”
The Mets tacked on another run in the sixth inning, taking a 4-2 lead, when Gausman departed with runners at first and third and reliever Wes Parsons allowed an RBI single to the first batter he faced, Rosario. Pete Alonso’s two-run homer off Jonny Venters, crushed 454 feet to center field with an off-the-bat speed of 118.3 mph, made it 6-2 in the seventh.
Acuna’s towering home run on a full-count pitch from reliever Luis Avilan in the eighth -- Acuna’s team-leading fifth homer of the season -- pulled the Braves within 6-3.
“He’s swinging the bat good, and it’s going to end up being a lot of run production,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He had been hitting the ball so hard and not getting anything for it. Now it’s starting to find some holes, and he’s getting it in the seats.”
The Braves tried unsuccessfully to rally in the ninth inning. With runners on second and third with two out, Mets closer Edwin Diaz ended the game by striking out Freddie Freeman.
“We were a swing away from tying the game and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate,” Snitker said. Acuna was on deck when it ended.
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