Perez helps Braves clinch series win over Mets

Williams Perez gave up two runs before he recorded his second out Saturday night against the Mets, and gave up as many homers (two) in six innings as he had allowed all season.

But good things tend to happen for the Braves in games started by their Venezuelan rookie, and Saturday was no exception.

The Braves rallied from an early deficit to take a 4-2 lead, watched Perez give that lead back on homers in the fifth and sixth, then scored two more runs in the sixth for a 6-4 win at Turner Field.

A.J. Pierzynski had three hits, including a double and a triple, and scored three runs for the Braves, who secured their first series win in nearly a month and knocked the Mets out of first place in the National League East. The 38-year-old catcher fell a home run shy of hitting for the cycle, something that only two Atlanta Braves have done, most recently Mark Kotsay in 2008.

“A lot of running, a lot of moving around, just energy expended,” Pierzynski said. “But it’s good because we won, and that’s the biggest thing.

The Braves are two games behind division leader Washington and 1 ½ games behind New York, and they’ll try to complete a three-game sweep of the Mets on Sunday. Their last series win had been May 21-24 against Milwaukee,

Jason Grilli collected his 20th save and Andrelton Simmons matched a career-high with four hits for the Braves. He’s had three four-hit games in his career, two of those in the past eight days.

“I’m glad we stayed in the game,” Simmons said. “We got ahead, they kind of came back, but we didn’t let it go. We had a good grip on the game still. We kept putting up good at-bats, manufacturing runs.”

Especially Pierzynski, who tripled in the second inning — the fifth consecutive year that he’s had at least one triple — singled in the fourth, and doubled in the sixth before flying out well short of the center-field warning track in the seventh.

Pierzysnki smiled and said, “Jonny Gomes summed it up – try again next year.”

“He felt fast today, he didn’t want to stop running,” Simmons said, laughing. “It’s the first time I saw him run that much. He was literally all over the place. He’s sliding at third, tagging on a shallow ball to left … he was exciting to see today.”

Perez (4-0) allowed five hits, four runs and two walks in six innings, and also hit two batters. The right-hander had a 1.50 ERA in his previous six starts, having allowed only six earned runs and one homer in 36 innings as a starter.

He’s given up 14 earned runs in 10 games overall, and 12 of those runs were in three outings – a four-run relief outing in one-third of an inning in his major league debut, and two starts.

Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud had three RBIs including a home run before he left the game with an injured left elbow, after Pierzynski hit him as the big Braves veteran was rumbling in from third base with the go-ahead run on Pedro Ciriaco’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.

The Mets intentionally walked hot-hitting Jace Peterson to re-load the bases and bring up Cameron Maybin, who grounded into a force at third to bring in another run for a 6-4 lead.

X-rays were negative on the injury to d’Arnaud, whose sixth-inning leadoff homer tied the score, 4-4. He has only four homers this season, and two have come in his past two games against the Braves. He had a two-run homer in the Mets’ 10-8 win Sunday at New York, and didn’t play in Friday’s series opener.

Perez gave up consecutive singles to start the game and hit the fourth batter, Michael Cuddyer, to load the bases. Michael Cuddyer followed with a two-run single, and it looked like Perez’s impressive run of solid starts to begin his career might end with an early exit. But as he’s done before, Perez quickly settled down, retiring 12 of next 13 batters, with the only base runner in that stretch coming on another hit-by-pitch.

Curtis Granderson ended that stretch with one-out homer in the fifth that cut the Braves’ lead to 4-3. He homered on a 2-2 curveball, Granderson’s ninth home run of the season and his sixth in his past 24 games against the Braves.

Peterson and Pierzynski was in on almost every scoring inning for the Braves. Pierzynski hit a one-out triple down the first-base line to the outfield corner in the second inning, and scored on Simmons’ single to cut the Mets’ lead to 2-1.

Peterson drew a leadoff walk in the third inning, stole second base, and went to third on the play when d’Arnaud threw to second and no one was covering the base. He scored on a Maybin groundout, the Braves having pushed a run across without benefit of a hit.

The Braves grabbed a 4-2 lead with two runs in the fourth, when Pierzynski, Simmons and Eury Perez started the inning with three consecutive singles off Mets starter Noah Syndergaard. Perez’s hit drove in a run, and Peterson’s sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 4-2.