He’s 0-1 but Blair impresses in Braves debut

Pitch No. 3 went for a single. So did Pitch No. 5. One sacrifice fly later, Aaron Blair was down 1-0 and his major league career was barely three minutes old.

At which time, he began to pitch.

The first element of the Braves’ great arms build-up to make it to Atlanta, Blair eventually took the loss in his Turner Field debut on Sunday but the ovation he received when departing with out in the sixth was well earned. Several rows behind the Braves dugout gave him a standing send-off and that’s not happening much around here this spring.

The Mets swept the weekend with a 3-2 win but Blair, 23, took a 1-1 game into the sixth, when New York began to measure him on the third trip through the batting order. To that point, the Mets had just four singles, which is laudable. They lead the National League in slugging and had hit 23 homers in their previous eight games.

“I think after that first inning, everything just kind of settled down,” Blair said. “I started locating my pitches down in the zone and got into a good groove for a couple innings.”

Then came the sixth, when a Curtis Granderson walk, an Asdrubal Cabrerea single and a Michael Conforto double over Nick Markakis’ head in right gave the Mets a 2-1 lead. Blair was pulled after 80 pitches and reliever Alexi Ogando let Cabrera score on a Lucas Duda sacrifice fly, leaving Blair with three runs allowed.

“He came as advertised,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s not afraid of contact. He made them swing the bats and put the ball in play. For his first major league outing against a team that’s swinging the bat pretty good, with professional hitters up and down the lineup, I thought he did great.”

Working a consistent 90-93 mph sinking fastball with a slider, a curve and serviceable 79-mph changeup he had the guts to throw on consecutive pitchers to Cabrera in the third, Blair held up his end of the deal against New York ace Jacob deGrom, an All-Star last season who drew some votes for the Cy Young award.

Blair finished with just one strikeout — Duda in the first — and walked two, some flipped numbers for the same pitcher who had struck 22 while walking just five in his three Triple-A starts in Gwinnett. But he worked around trouble.

“Strikes, pitcher’s strikes, command in and out, movement on the ball, I thought he looked good,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “After the first inning, I thought he settled in an pitched well.”

He coaxed a double play ball from Wilmer Flores after Neil Walker singled to open the second. With Juan Lagares on second in the third inning, he induced Granderson to pop-out to center before Cabrera ended the inning on a ground out. When Duda singled in the fourth, Walker hit into another double play.

“The first inning, the two hits to lead off the game, I kind of put myself in a tough situation,” Blair said. “But I was able to get out of it with just one run. End of the game, I kind of lost my fastball command and it hurt me a little bit.”

Blair was told Friday night he would be called up for Sunday’s game, leaving plenty of time to assemble his clan, some of whom flew in from the West Coast.

“Mom, Dad,” he said, reciting his ticket requests. “Brother, Grandma, Grandpa, cousin, fiancee, fiancee’s sister, fiancees’ parents, friends from college.”

Asked if he lost money in the transaction, he replied, “I think so. I’m not sure how that works.”