ATLANTA (AP) — Austin Riley doesn’t want to put too much emphasis on winning the first game of a crucial three-game series with the New York Mets.
That being said, he sure is glad the Atlanta Braves took the opener.
“To get the first one is huge and just try to build as much momentum off it as possible,” Riley said. “To come out fighting and top to bottom did a great job. Arms did great. Just a solid win.”
Riley and Matt Olson hit back-to-back homers off Jacob deGrom in the second inning and Dansby Swanson later connected off the Mets ace as the Braves beat New York 5-2 Friday night to move into a tie for the NL East lead.
The defending World Series champion Braves soaked in the raucous atmosphere at sold-out Truist Park as they seek to keep the Mets from winning one game in the three-game series and earn the tiebreaker between the two teams.
Atlanta, going for its fifth straight NL East title, has won eight of the 17 games in the season series.
Both teams are 98-59 with five games to go in the regular season.
Riley and Olson became the first players to hit back-to-back homers off deGrom (5-4) since Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson did it for the Braves on June 18, 2019. That game was also the last time deGrom allowed two homers in the same inning.
At that point, deGrom had given up 13 earned runs and five homers in 17 innings over his last four starts. He entered 0-2 with a 6.60 ERA in his previous three starts. The righty also is dealing with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, but he refused to use that as an excuse.
“I had a little bit in the last start and then it popped and skin underneath right now kind of peeled off, so I started getting pretty aggravated,” deGrom said. “We were debating whether or not to keep going with it, so we decided it was enough. We don’t want it to become a bigger issue than it is.”
Swanson homered off deGrom after he had retired seven in a row to make it 3-1. Swanson’s 23rd long ball went 441 feet into the left-field seats, touching off a frenzy from the crowd. Eddie Rosario’s sacrifice fly and Orlando Arcia’s RBI double off Tylor Megill in the seventh padded the lead to 5-1.
Max Fried (14-7) allowed consecutive singles to begin the second before Francisco Álvarez grounded into a double play in his first major league at-bat. The Mets led 1-0 on Luis Guillorme’s single as Rosario had the ball bounce off his glove in left field in an attempt to make a running catch.
Braves reliever Collin McHugh faced the minimum in the sixth, Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh and A.J. Minter gave up Tomás Nido’s third homer to make it 5-2 in the eighth.
Closer Kenley Jansen hit a batter, gave up a single and issued a walk that loaded the bases one out in the ninth, but struck out the last two batters for his NL-high 38th save in 45 chances.
“We had some grind there and had an opportunity at the end,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “We just couldn’t get another — they have a good pitching staff. So do we.”
Riley’s 38th homer in the bottom of the second made it 1-all, the ball sailing 422 feet to center field. Olson’s 31st homer traveled 430 feet to right-center over the Braves’ bullpen.
“When another team scores, you want to be able to respond quickly and to be able to do it in that quick of an instant was huge and for it to be back-to-back homers like that was definitely a tone-setter for us as team,” Swanson said. “It provided a little energy and spark and got the crowd involved. When you do that, good things are bound to happen.”
Fried retired 10 straight through Nido’s groundout to end the fifth and was done for the night because he was feeling ill. The lefty allowed four hits and one run with no walks and three strikeouts in five innings. He threw 50 of 71 pitches for strikes. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2019, Fried’s 52 wins are second-most in the majors to the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole with 56.
DeGrom settled down to strike out five straight before Arcia popped up to end the fifth. He finished having allowed five hits and three runs with no walks and 11 strikeouts.
DeGrom was coming off his worst start in over three years — four innings, five earned runs — but was 10-8 with a 2.08 ERA in 27 career starts against the Braves. That is the fourth-best opponent’s ERA in Braves franchise history.
The Braves are trying to erase their biggest deficit, 10½ games, to win a division in franchise history. The team record is 10 games in 1993.
The Braves are 73-32 since June 2, the second-best mark in the majors over that span. New York is 63-41, the fifth-best over that span.
Atlanta set its highest single-season win total since the 2003 team went 101-61 to win the NL East.
The last time deGrom allowed three homers in a single game was on April 9, 2019, against Minnesota, but he became the ninth pitcher with at least 100 strikeouts through 11 starts in consecutive seasons more than once in his career. He has 102 strikeouts in a span of 64 1/3 innings.
Braves rookie 2B Vaughn Grissom, a staple in the lineup from Aug. 10-Sept. 25 (except for the one game that Ozzie Albies played before getting reinjured), has lost playing time to Arcia. Grissom is hitting .167 in his last 36 at-bats, a span of 12 games, with 11 strikeouts and three errors.
Arcia was caught in a rundown between third and home for the final out of the third. He was on second when Michael Harris II singled to shortstop Francisco Lindor in the outfield grass and took too wide of a turn at third, allowing Lindor to throw behind Arcia and start the rundown.
Álvarez, regarded by many as the majors’ top prospect, was called up before the game and went 0 for 4 in his debut, striking out with the bases loaded in the ninth. … Lindor went 0 for 4 to snap a 13-game hitting streak.
Mets ace Max Scherzer (11-4, 2.13 ERA) will face another right-hander, Kyle Wright (20-5, 3.18), the majors’ only 20-game winner, as the teams play the second game of a three-game series.
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