Keuchel has hit a bit of a rough patch over the last month or so, watching his ERA bloom to a hair under five. A lot of that has been due to some unfortunate luck or a reliever failing to pick him up. But then there was last week against the Marlins, where he allowed a porous lineup blow up for eight runs on ten hits in 3.2 innings. It might have been Keuchel’s worst performance of his storied career; however, the great ones can’t wait to get back out there, and the bearded wonder reminded us why the Braves backed up the Brink’s truck to sign him back in June.
The Mets best opportunity might have come in the first inning. Tyler Flowers let a couple of catchable balls by him, setting up New York with a runner on third and two outs. But it was apparent from the get-go that this was a different Dallas Keuchel. He struck out his second batter of the inning – Michael Conforto – to end the frame.
Keuchel would cruise through the next four innings, allowing two hits and striking out four more. Trouble didn’t arrive again until the sixth when the Mets put two men on with nobody out. It was a perfect time for a tailor-made groundball for two, and Keuchel was able to get Wilson Ramos to oblige. However, he was not out of the woods yet. J.D. Davis stood at third with two outs and Todd Frazier at the plate. Keuchel threw a cutter in on his hands and forced him to pop one right behind the first-base bag, but it took a magnificent over the shoulder grab by Freddie Freeman to preserve the shutout.
That would be the final pitch for the former Cy Young Award winner, who finished six full innings of scoreless baseball with seven strikeouts. It was probably the best outing for Keuchel in a Braves uniform, but unfortunately, it would not result in a win.
The Braves bats haven’t shown up for Keuchel as they have for Max Fried this season. Atlanta only scored one run, and it came on an Ender Inciarte double in the second inning. It was up to the bullpen to hold Keuchel’s lead, which went about as well as you might expect.
Sean Newcomb took over in the seventh and mowed the first two batters down. The New York pitcher, Steven Matz, followed with a bloop single in front of Ronald Acuña. Puzzlingly, Brian Snitker opted to pull Newcomb – Atlanta’s best reliever to this point in the season – for struggling Chris Martin to play the matchups. It didn’t work. Martin surrendered back-to-back singles, giving the Mets their first lead of the series, but it would be short-lived.
Like they seemingly always do, the Braves’ bats woke up in a big way once the game turned to the seventh. A walk followed by four straight hits gave Atlanta the lead again. A Matt Joyce fielder’s choice brought in another, then back-to-back singles by Acuña and Albies pushed the gap to four before the Mets could get out of the inning.
Positively, Shane Greene would come in and pitch a perfect frame in the ninth – the first time he’s done that in an Atlanta uniform. Negatively, it was Mark Melancon’s turn to stop the hearts of Braves Country. Although it wasn’t all his fault.
Four straight hits sent Pete Alonso to the plate with a chance to take a one-run lead, but Melancon was able to induce a tailor-made double-play – at least – it appeared. Johan Camargo mishandled the throw to second, leaving everybody safe and the bases loaded with one out. Thankfully, Melancon was able to strike out the next batter, and Brian Snitker turned to Jerry Blevins to face Michael Conforto for the final out. The southpaw made Snitker look like a genius for the switch, as he struck out Conforto on three straight pitches, sealing a 6-4 win and a series victory over the Mets.
It wasn’t pretty; it usually isn’t for the Braves, but they go for the sweep tomorrow over a team that had won 15 of their last 17 games before coming to town. That’s about all you can ask for with a six-game lead in the division. Julio Teheran takes the mound against Marcus Stroman tomorrow at 7:20 ET at SunTrust Park.