On days when Jacob deGrom takes the ball for the Mets, early runs for New York offense have historically been a death sentence for the opposition. That was not the case on Thursday, as a first inning run for the Mets was answered by three first inning runs for the Braves. A wild, erratic finish for both teams culminated with a Freddie Freeman walk-off single that plated the winning run and gave Atlanta a 4-3 victory.
Ian Anderson drew the start for Atlanta and truthfully, despite his final line, was not particularly sharp. He struggled with command and belabored his way through much of the game, but still managed to pitch seven innings while allowing just two runs. Anderson struck out just two batters, which kept the defense busy, but allowed only five baserunners.
Admittedly it was somewhat deflating to see the Mets score a run in the first inning, jumping out to a 1-0 lead, with the knowledge that deGrom and his miniscule ERA, WHIP, FIP, etc. would be taking the mound for New York. Those concerns subsided quickly as Ehire Adrianza led off the bottom half of the inning with a triple. Two batters later, Ozzie Albies singled to drive home the tying run and knot the score at 1. The next batter, Austin Riley, followed with a line shot down the right field line that cleared wall just inside the foul pole to give Atlanta a 3-1 lead.
Scoring even a single run against deGrom in 2021 has been nearly impossible, but scoring three in the first inning? That does not happen, at least not since 2015.
The Braves are the first team to score 3+ earned runs against Jacob deGrom in the 1st inning of a game since the Phillies on Aug. 24, 2015.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) July 1, 2021
It was a huge boost for Atlanta, especially their starter, as Anderson saw his early blemish erased in dramatic fashion. He would settle in and grind out a solid start, holding the Mets scoreless until Dominic Smith blasted a solo homer to trim the Atlanta lead to one in the seventh inning. Anderson was lifted after retiring the next three batters, exiting with the lead following an impressive, gutsy start.
As for deGrom, he absolutely mowed the Braves down from the second inning through the seventh inning. The Braves actually led off the second with a double from Abraham Almonte, followed by a single from Kevan Smith. Almonte was forced to hold up, waiting for the ball to fall in before heading for third base and failing to score on the play. This slight hesitation allowed deGrom to escape unscathed as he struck out the next three batters.
As it turned out, Smith would be final batter to reach base against deGrom in this game. He exited after the seventh having retired the final 18 batters he faced with 14 strikeouts. His final line looked as pedestrian as any we have seen from deGrom, with three earned runs being charged to the right-hander.
The Braves finally got a look at the Mets bullpen in the eighth inning as Trevor May entered to face pinch-hitter Ronald Acuna, who was a late scratch with back tightness. Acuna promptly lined a single to left field, giving the Braves their first baserunner since the second inning. Adrianza followed with a bloop single, then two batters later the Braves loaded the bases with two outs for Dansby Swanson. May was able to strike out Swanson to strand all three runners, which left the Braves clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth.
Atlanta closer Will Smith was able to preserve that lead for exactly two pitches, as the third pitch was a hanging slider to Dominic Smith that landed in the Chop House to tie the game 3-3. Smith would work around a James McCann single later in the inning, keeping the game tied and giving the Braves an opportunity to win the bottom half of the ninth.
Atlanta took full advantage of the opportunity. The inning began with Guillermo Heredia weakly bouncing a ball up the third base line, but became fortuitous when Mets reliever Seth Lugo fired the ball from a knee and into the camera well. Heredia advanced to third on a Pablo Sandoval groundout, which was followed by a Kevan Smith strikeout with the winning run on third. New York opted to walk Ronald Acuna, then unintentionally walked Ender Inciarte to load the bases for Freddie Freeman. On the first pitch he saw from Lugo, Freeman lined a comebacker off the foot of the right-hander, which caromed toward third base. Freeman was able to beat the throw to first base, allowing Heredia to score and win the game.
This was certainly not the ending anyone could have anticipated, but it gives the Braves a much-needed series win over a team they are trying to catch in the standings. For the Mets, the most frustrating part of the game may have been third baseman Luis Guillorme opting to fire the ball to first base in a futile attempt to retire Freeman rather than stepping on third base to force an out and end the inning. Luckily for the Braves, he chose the former and could not retire the fleet-footed Freeman.
The Braves will now host the Marlins for a weekend series as they look to reel in the Mets even more. It was unorthodox, but the Braves winning a crazy game like this feels significant. The club has seemingly lost every close game this season, especially when a deflating game-tying homer in the ninth could have killed their spirits. It has not been pretty, but the Braves keep fighting.