ATLANTA — Jacob deGrom became mortal for a few minutes Thursday night, just enough time to bury the Mets in the kind of hole their floundering lineup is often incapable of escaping.
Dominic Smith eventually got the Mets back to level ground, but the mojo was short-lived. Seth Lugo’s misguided decision to throw off balance to first base after fielding Guillermo Heredia’s squib leading off the bottom of the ninth and Freddie Freeman’s RBI single sent the Mets to a 4-3 loss at Truist Park for their 11th defeat in 17 games.
With the bases loaded and two out, Freeman smacked a line drive off Lugo’s glove and just beat Luis Guillorme’s throw to first base, igniting the Braves’ celebration.
The winning rally started when Lugo slipped fielding Heredia’s squib and threw from his backside to first, resulting in a throwing error that allowed Heredia to get to second base. Lugo retired the next two batters, but then issued an intentional walk to Ronald Acuna Jr. and walked Ender Inciarte to load the bases before Freeman delivered, giving the Braves two of three games and the series victory.
Smith led off the top of the ninth with his second homer of the game, a towering blast to right field against Will Smith that pulled the Mets even at 3-3. The multi-homer game was the first of Smith’s career. Smith also blasted a homer leading off the seventh.
Next stop for the Mets is The Bronx for three games against a reeling Yankees team that can possibly offer some relief. But that will only be if the Mets can get their bats started — they have scored three runs or fewer in seven of their past 11 games.
The Mets had their best shot at taking the lead in the eighth, when Billy McKinney delivered a pinch-hit single and Francisco Lindor drew a one-out walk. But the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup, Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso, were retired by Chris Martin to preserve Atlanta’s lead.
DeGrom gave the Mets the kind of length they have craved, lasting seven innings and throwing 93 pitches, his highest total since April 28. He retired the final 18 batters he faced and struck out 14, but there was the matter of the three runs he surrendered in the first inning.
DeGrom entered the dugout and slammed his glove in disgust following that first inning, in which he allowed more earned runs (three) than he had in any total outing this season.
Austin Riley went to the opposite field on a 99.7 mph fastball and cleared the right-field for a two-run homer that gave the Braves a 3-1 lead. The homer was the first allowed by deGrom in seven starts, dating to April 25 against the Rockies. The blast also sent deGrom’s ERA into triple digits (1.03), a neighborhood he hadn’t visited all season. By the end of the night, that number had dropped to 0.95.
Ehire Adrianza, a late addition to the lineup after Acuna was scratched from the starting lineup, smashed a triple leading off the game for the Braves. Ozzie Albies’ RBI single tied it 1-1 before Riley delivered his 14th homer of the season. Adrianza’s hit snapped a streak of 37 straight batters retired by deGrom in the first inning this season.
Conforto’s RBI single in the first gave the Mets a 1-0 lead after Lindor walked and stole second. The stolen base was Lindor’s seventh of the season.
Smith homered against Ian Anderson leading off the seventh to pull the Mets within 3-2. The blast continued a trend of the Mets rallying in the later innings of games.