Braves take lead in 8th, then lose to Mets 4-3 in 11 innings

The last time Mike Minor pitched as well as he did Monday, the Braves scored no runs for him and he lost. Monday against the Mets, he allowed two hits and two runs in seven innings and looked like he’d get another loss for the effort.

But that was before Mets starter Daisuke Matsuzaka left the game and things quickly got interesting.

Trailing 2-0 after seven innings, the Braves scored three in the eighth, gave up the lead on a Curtis Granderson off Luis Avilan in the bottom of the inning, then lost 4-3 in 11 innings to open a four-game series at Citi Field.

Juan Lagares doubled off Braves reliever Anthony Varvaro with one out in the 11th inning. One intentional walk and a long fly out later, Ruben Tejada singled up the middle for the walk-off win, handing the Braves their second consecutive loss since ending a nine-game winning streak.

Braves All-Star Freddie Freeman got the eighth-inning rally started with a two-out double off reliever Vic Black and scored on a wild pitch that nearly hit Jason Heyward in the head. Chris Johnson followed with a tying double off the center-field wall, and rookie catcher Christian Bethancourt came through with a two-out single that gave the Braves a 3-2 lead.

Bethancourt made the Mets pay for walking fellow rookie Tommy La Stella with first base open and Johnson at second base.

Avilan couldn’t protect the lead, giving up a two-out homer to Granderson in the bottom of the inning on a full-count fastball over the middle of the plate, after twice shaking off Bethancourt when he called for pitches away.

That washed away a potential needed win for Minor, who got no decision to run his string of winless starts to nine. He gave up two hits, two runs and two walks (one intentional) with four strikeouts in seven innings. Travis d’Arnaud’s two-out RBI double in the second inning and David Wright’s two-out homer in the third gave the Mets a 2-0 lead.

Minor has allowed seven home runs in his past five starts, 14 homers in 13 starts this season, and 21 homers in 19 starts (116 1/3 innings since Aug. 31, 2013. The left-hander is 2-9 with an ERA of nearly 4.50 in those 19 starts.

Although it didn’t drive in a run, there was no more meaningful hit for the Braves in the eighth inning than Heyward’s single off left-hander Josh Edgin, which snapped Heyward’s 0-for-37 string against lefties and came three pitches after Edgin’s 94-mph fastball came frighteningly close to hitting him in the head.

It was here at Citi Field in August when Heyward was hit in the face by lefty Jon Niese’s 90-mph fastball, which broke his right jaw and required surgery that sidelined him for a month. Heyward still wears a guard attachment on his batting helmet to protect the right side of his face, and had a majors-worst .128 average (11-for-86) against lefties before the single.

The pitch that whizzed by his head went to the backstop and allowed Freeman to score and cut the lead to 2-1. Heyward singled to center and scored the tying run when Johnson hit a double that caromed off the center-field scoreboard above the 408 (feet) sign at spacious Citi Field.

After getting timely hits throughout a season-high nine-game winning streak that ended Sunday, the Braves for most of Monday night reverted to their previous mode of wasted scoring chances. They were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position over seven innings against Matsuzaka, six days after roughing him up for five runs in five innings.

The Braves went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Arizona that snapped a nine-game winning streak.

They failed to score after Justin Upton’s leadoff double in the sixth inning Monday. Heyward lined out, Johnson flied out and La Stella hit a nubber of a ground out in front of the plate to end the inning.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing after umpires overturned an out call at second base on a controversial play.

Rules say the “neighborhood play” at second base is not reviewable, and in the Braves’ view it was a neighborhood play when third baseman Chris Johnson fielded a Juan Lagares bunt and threw to shortstop Andrelton Simmons covering second base. His foot came off the base before he threw to first base a step too late to complete a double play.

But after second-base umpire Sean Barber called Eric Campbell out at second, Mets manager Terry Collins convinced the umpires that the play could be challenged by arguing that no play was possible at first base, hence no double play (in actuality, the play at first base was fairly close).

After the umpires talked it over, they determined that Campbell was safe at second. Suddenly the Mets had two on with none out against reliever Shae Simmons. Gonzalez immediately came onto the field to dispute the ruling and got tossed.

The pressure was on Shae Simmons, and the rookie came through again. Lucas Duda hit a bloop to left-center that Andrelton Simmons tried to catch over his shoulder while running. The ball fell to the ground, but Simmons alertly threw to third base for the first out of the inning.

There were still runners at first and second when Travis d’Arnaud hit a grounder that Johnson fielded before stepping on third base for the second out, his throw to first too late for a double play. One walk later, later, Eric Young Jr. grounded into a 3-6 force to end the inning with the score 3-3.

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