Braves waste chances early, fall 8-2 to Mets

The formula has been simple for the Braves thus far in 2016: score six or more runs, they’re likely to win. Don’t score that many and they can pretty much forget about it.

That’s been the modus operandi, and that’s not good considering they’ve only scored six or more runs five times.

The Braves got just one extra-base hit among 10 hits Saturday night in an 8-2 loss against the Mets, Atlanta’s fourth consecutive defeat to drop its majors-worst record to 4-13.

They'll try to avoid a sweep Sunday when the Braves start highly regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair in his major league debut against the Mets and ace Jacob deGrom.

Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur was asked if there was pressure to win Sunday, to stop another losing skid before it gets any bigger and avoid being swept for the third time in four home series.

“I don’t know if pressure is the right word,” he said. “I think sense of urgency is a better word. I think we need to come in tomorrow, everybody ready to go, so we can get locked (in). Have a sense of urgency and do well tomorrow.”’

The Mets tacked on three runs in the ninth inning against rookie Ryan Weber, including consecutive homers by Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera to start the inning.

The Mets have 16 homers in their past five games and 23 homers in the past eight. The Braves have three homers all season and none in their past 12 games.

Jhoulys Chacin (0-1) had the least impressive of his four starts, allowing seven hits and four runs (three earned) in 5 2/3 innings. Not bad, but not nearly enough on a night when a punchless Braves offense wasted scoring chances early against Mets rookie Steven Matz (2-1).

The Braves scored six or more runs in each of their four wins to date, and four or fewer runs in 12 of 13 losses. They’ve homered just once since opening day, and twelve games is their longest homer drought since a 13-game stretch in 1983.

They also had a majors-low 28 extra-base hits before Saturday, the reason for the unusual distinction of owning a lower slugging percentage (majors-worst .285) than on-base percentage (.303) entering the game.

Their 29th extra-base hit was an RBI double by Freddie Freeman in the third inning, which reduced the Mets’ lead to 2-1. But the Braves stranded two in that inning and the Mets score twice in the fourth, and that was that. A 4-1 lead. This is not a Braves team built to overcome three-run deficits.

The only thing the Braves have done well offensively is hit with runners in scoring position, entering Saturday with a majors-best .320 average and .423 OBP in those situations. But they went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position during the first five innings, stranding two runners in three different innings.

“That’s where we’re at right now,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But I see guys swinging the bats and coming out of funks. There are pluses out there, other than we’re not winning games. And that’s the biggest thing – I’d rather win ugly, get two hits and win seven or eight in a row that way.”

After the Mets took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on two hits, a sacrifice fly, a walk and costly fielding error by first baseman Freeman, the Braves had a chance to reduce the deficit when they put two on with one out in the second. But Erick Aybar grounded out and Drew Stubbs struck out looking.

Aybar also grounded into an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning and is 2-for-30 this season with runners on base and 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

The Braves mounted another threat in the third, after Nick Markakis was hit in the right hand by a 94-mph Matz fastball. Daniel Castro followed with a one-out single and Freeman doubled for just his fifth RBI. There were still two in scoring position, but Adonis Garcia lined out and Tyler Flowers flied out to end the inning.

The Braves had failed to take full advantage of opportunities, and that failure stung when David Wright’s two-run, two-out double in the fourth inning pushed the Mets’ lead to 4-1. Chacin walked Curtis Granderson with two out and Wright made him pay.