The Mets came back to beat the Braves in the finale of a grueling five-game series at Turner Field, winning 4-3. Here are three observations from the game:
1. Mike Minor's superb 2013 season may have hit a speed bump
For the first time in a calendar year, Minor has allowed four earned runs in consecutive starts. Yes, by most standards, that's a minor (no pun intended) obstacle to overcome. He still holds onto a 2.89 ERA, one of the best in baseball, but he was visibly unimpressed with his recent string of performances.
"I look back on them I just feel like in certain situations I make bad pitches, stupid decisions. I really don't throw the ball down in the zone when I need to," Minor said. "I guess the last half of last year and the first half (of 2013), I feel like I made a lot better pitches. But the last couple, all the way back to the Pirates (June 4), I feel like the pitch selection and where I threw it, you know, some of the pitches that game to were just not where I wanted to throw them."
Minor pitched six innings against the Mets lineup, allowing four earned runs on nine hits. When tacking on two more walks (he also struck out six), it's actually rather strange that all three runs came on solo shots. The Braves' left-hander was able to pitch himself out of jams, but he just missed his spot on a fastball, a slider and a curveball and the Mets made him pay.
"Usually they say solo home runs don't beat ya," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You think you can score more than three runs, but they did a nice job even when (starter Jonathan) Niese came out of the game."
Even as Minor has made his case to be an All-Star this season, the opposing home runs keep coming. When looking over baseball stats, we are trained to translate "home runs allowed" to "struggling." The improving lefty is now allowing a 1.12 home run rate, the 35th-worst among qualified pitchers. That leaves Minor in a group that includes Baltimore's Chris Tillman, San Diego's Jason Marquis and Tampa Bay's Matt Moore as pitchers with at least eight wins who are giving up, on average, a home run per inning pitched.
2. Tyler Pastornicky makes the most of his opportunity
Prior to Thursday's game, Gonzalez sat in his usual dugout perch and answered the first question of the day. It concerned Pastornicky, who received his most recent call-up after rookie catcher Evan Gattis hit the disabled list. Gonzalez's answer was a simple one (perhaps with a slight nod to his newfound liking of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popvich): If guys are going to be on the big league roster, he wants to play them.
But not only did he play the one-time starter, he put him in at leadoff. And he performed.
In his first at-bat, the 23-year-old hustled down the line to beat out an infield single, eventually moving to third base on another blue-collar play before scoring the Braves' first run. He singled again in the fourth inning, this time to left field off reliever David Aardsma. For an eight-inning encore, he sent a broken-bat single over second baseman Daniel Murphy's head to keep the a potential comeback alive.
"I knew Brandon Lyon's pitch was the cutter. I knew I was probably going to get it early. I was looking for it," Pastornicky said of his final hit. "I tried to stay through it as well as I could. I got it off the end of the bat, but it was enough.
When the game was over, he had collected three hits he entered the game with just one hit in 10 plate appearances this season. It is the third three-hit game of his career.
"He got on base, created some stuff," Gonzalez said. "That's nice to get him in there and get him involved in the offense and get in the lineup. He's a nice piece."
With the emergence of Andrelton Simmons and Dan Uggla's contract, Atlanta has done what it can to make Pastornicky as versatile as possible even his Baseball Reference page lists three positions, including pinch hitter, on his bio in hopes that he can be useful. On Thursday, starting at second base for Dan Uggla, who is reportedly struggling with vision problems and could undergo Lasik surgery, he made himself useful. Not only did he provide production in a rare 2013 opportunity, but he provided stability at the leadoff spot (at least for one game), which has been a problem area for the Braves this season.
3. David Wright powers through Atlanta once more
With two solo home runs off Minor, Captain America once again marked off some territory in the friendly confines of Turner Field. He has now hit 18 career home runs in Atlanta, the most he's hit in any park other than Shea Stadium (the Mets former home) and Citi Field (the Mets current home). In fact, his 32 career homers against the Braves are the most he's hit against any opponent.
Thursday was his 20th career multi-homer game, the most in Mets history behind only Darryl Strawberry (22).
"He's a really good hitter," Minor said of Wright. "I threw a fastball in the middle of the plate (on his first home run), which you can't do that; it was up and middle. And then that hanging curveball (on the second home run), which was up and middle. That's what that guy does."
Of course, being in the same division bolsters this number - more games, more opportunities but Wright-versus-Braves is an interesting dynamic, because he does not exactly put up big numbers in the rivalry. His OPS in said games was just 86 (100 is average) entering Thursday's game, well below his career numbers against NL opponents like the Dodgers (132 OPS), Rockies (131) and Cardinals (110).
That metric will certainly rise following his 3-for-4 night, but it's interesting how he's delivered the big, flashy hits in this series, but not the overall monster numbers that typically accompany them.