Braves lose lead in eighth before rain suspends game
Gattis delivers in pinch, but Mets tie it; opener to resume at 6:10 p.m. ET on Saturday
NEW YORK -- As Anthony Varvaro struggled to grip the baseball while being pelted by rain during the eighth inning at Citi Field on Friday night, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had no problem with umpiring crew chief Dale Scott's decision to continue playing through the ugly conditions.
"Actually, I thought it would benefit us because we had the lead," Gonzalez said.
After the Mets produced two runs off Varvaro during the game-tying eighth inning, a 76-minute rain delay preceded the decision to suspend the game with the Braves and Mets tied, 5-5. The two teams will be entering the ninth inning when play resumes Saturday at 6:10 p.m. ET.
Had the Braves or Mets been leading at the end of the last full inning that was played before play was halted, the game would have been deemed official. The game was tied after seven innings, and the Mets were given a chance to erase the two-run deficit they incurred when Evan Gattis came off the bench to drive in a pair of runs with a two-out, pinch-hit single in the top of the eighth inning.
"They were trying to complete that inning, and we were trying to keep the lead just in case something like this happened," Gonzalez said.
Having already used Luis Avilan and Cory Gearrin, the Braves sent the inexperienced Varvaro out to protect their eighth-inning lead. The 28-year-old right-handed reliever issued a leadoff walk to John Buck and then surrendered a one-out single to Ruben Tejada.
Varvaro repeatedly made unsuccessful attempts to find a way to dry his hand and find a better grip of the baseball. Daniel Murphy delivered an RBI single that skipped through the wet grass and briefly eluded B.J. Upton long enough for Tejada to take third base. This put Tejada in position to score on a game-tying wild pitch.
"I was just trying to throw it over the plate," Varvaro said. "I was going to my pants, going to my back, going in [my jersey]. I'm thinking they were probably thinking I was going for something to get a little [grip]."
While many of the Braves' players were upset that the umpires extended the game through the heavy rain, Gonzalez acknowledged that the Mets were forced to overcome their deficit while plagued by the ugly conditions.
"I just don't know who has the advantage there," Gonzalez said. "I don't know if the pitcher would have the advantage or the hitters would have the advantage. One guy is trying to throw a wet ball, and the other guy is trying to hit it with all the rain in their face. You just don't know."
Gonzalez has spent the past week crossing his fingers while utilizing an injury-depleted, short-handed bullpen that suffered a significant loss this week when setup man Eric O'Flaherty underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
During Friday night's delay, Gonzalez spoke with general manager Frank Wren about the possibility of going back to a seven-man bullpen for the start of Saturday's previously scheduled game which will begin at 7:15 p.m. ET or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the suspended game.
Varvaro, David Carpenter, Cory Rasmus and closer Craig Kimbrel will be the available relievers during the completion of the suspended game.
"Hopefully we can score three in the ninth and then bring Kimbrel in," Gonzalez said. "We can run Varvaro back out there for that matter. It's like going back-to-back days."
Before the two-run single from Gattis, who is now 5-for-7 as a pinch-hitter, the Braves' run production consisted of Freddie Freeman's first-inning, two-run homer off Jeremy Hefner and Dan Uggla's game-tying seventh-inning solo homer off LaTroy Hawkins.
Uggla's ninth home run of the season and fourth in a span of 44 at-bats erased the one-run lead the Mets claimed with Marlon Byrd's soft two-out single to center in the fifth inning. Byrd's single scored Murphy, who began the inning with a double that seemed to get caught in the wind as it sailed past Justin Upton and bounced off the left-field wall.
While allowing the Mets three runs and seven hits in six innings, Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen was not as efficient as he was Saturday, when he limited the Dodgers to two hits in seven innings. Medlen felt Buck's solo home run in the fourth inning came on a good changeup. Medlen was also the victim of some misfortune when the wind seemed to play havoc on Justin Upton as he pursued the two-out RBI single Lucas Duda placed in shallow left field during the first inning. He allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out nine over six innings.
"Any time you can point to just a couple pitches, it's a successful outing," said Medlen, who has won just one of his first 10 starts this season.
When Freeman hit his first-inning home run into the second level above the right-field wall, it appeared the Braves might extend the woes of Hefner, who had compiled a 4.70 ERA and gone winless in his previous eight starts. But the Mets right-hander surrendered just one hit after the first inning and retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced during his six-inning effort.