NEW YORK (AP) — This is the wrong time for the rest of Atlanta’s lineup to leave Justin Upton all alone.
Juan Lagares hit a two-run homer and ran down one ball after another in center field, sending Dillon Gee and the New York Mets to a 3-2 victory over the slumping Braves on Tuesday night.
One day after his 27th birthday, Upton extended his monthlong tear by going 3 for 3 with an RBI double and a walk. But the Braves, right in the thick of a crowded NL wild-card race, have totaled only five runs while dropping three straight following a 7-1 surge.
“He’s really swinging the bat really well. We’ve got to get some people on in front of him,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Gee stopped the longest losing streak of his career at five games, outpitching Alex Wood in the opener of a three-game series. Lagares, one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, scurried from gap to gap and finished with seven putouts.
One of Lagares’ grabs was spectacular – he robbed Wood of a base hit with a diving, tumbling grab in shallow center to end the third inning. Lagares also began the game by running a long way to track down consecutive fly balls, and he made all three putouts in the sixth.
“We had people on base. Their pitchers made pitches to get out of jams. That’s part of the game. We’ve just got to keep our heads up,” Upton said.
Backed by three double plays, Gee (5-6) gave up two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. He entered 0-5 with a 5.71 ERA in seven starts since beating the Braves 4-1 on July 9 in his first outing after nearly two months on the disabled list.
New York turned four double plays in all.
“It just killed us, really,” Gonzalez said.
Gee was lifted after Tommy La Stella’s run-scoring single made it 3-2. Jeurys Familia got four outs, and Jenrry Mejia pitched a one-hit ninth for his 19th save in 22 tries.
Mejia leaped off the mound with both arms raised after throwing a called third strike past Evan Gattis to end it.
Wood (9-10) retired his final 12 batters following Lagares’ homer in the fourth. The left-hander struck out six and walked one in seven innings. He yielded two earned runs or fewer in each of his previous five starts.
“I was kind of all over the place early. I had to knock some of the rust out from the off days, but I started getting it going there the last couple of innings,” Wood said. “I don’t know if I was getting better or if they kind of sat back a little bit and were hoping that would hold up.”
Ruben Tejada hit an RBI single in the second, two batters after Lagares singled. Atlanta tied it on consecutive doubles by Freddie Freeman and Upton with two outs in the fourth.
Travis d’Arnaud doubled to open the bottom half and Lagares drove Wood’s full-count changeup to left field for his fourth home run – his second in three games after going more than three months without one.
“It was just a really bad pitch to that guy,” Wood said.
Braves: RHP Cory Gearrin is ready to begin a throwing program in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery in April. … RHP Gavin Floyd (broken right elbow) is going to increase his exercise program but won’t throw for another six weeks. Floyd was examined by Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek. “We don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be pitching in spring training,” Gonzalez said. … LHP Jonny Venters was shut down after he was unable to work off a mound earlier in the road trip. Venters, trying to come back from a second Tommy John surgery, was scheduled to be examined by Dr. James Andrews.
Mets: 3B David Wright (neck) and 2B Daniel Murphy (calf) sat out.
NOT THIS YEAR
For the first time in the six-year history of Citi Field, the Braves will not finish the season with a winning record at the ballpark. They are 3-5 at New York’s home with two games remaining.
All-Star RHP Julio Teheran (12-9, 2.96 ERA) pitches Wednesday night for Atlanta against RHP Zack Wheeler (9-8, 3.48 ERA), who has won six straight decisions. Wheeler is 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA in six career starts against the Braves, his hometown team.