NEW YORK -- Kyle Muller wasn’t ready at the start of the season, but it appears he is now more than capable of spending the next couple months doing whatever he can to help the Braves keep their postseason hopes alive.
Muller helped create a run and he escaped two challenging threats while guiding the Braves to a 2-0 win over the Mets in the first game of a doubleheader at Citi Field on Monday afternoon.
With the win, the Braves (49-50) moved within four games of the first-place Mets (52-45) in the National League East. Atlanta needs a strong showing in this five-game set to improve its place in the division race and to influence what the front office does before Friday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline.
“First game is a shutout during the first of five games in four days,” Muller said. “That’s big time. That’s really good momentum to start with. We’re just going to keep rolling the rest of the week. I’m just really excited to see how this goes.”
Joc Pederson’s third-inning double and Orlando Arcia’s fourth-inning groundout provided necessary support for Muller, who allowed just four hits over five scoreless. The lefty was pulled despite throwing just 75 pitches.
But this early exit didn’t prove to be damaging like the one Muller experienced last week, when he was lifted after allowing one run and totaling 87 pitches over four innings. In that game, the Padres scored two runs in the fifth and held on for a 3-2 win.
This time, the Braves' bullpen preserved the effort of Muller, who has a 1.90 ERA in his first five career starts.
“He’s got a lot of confidence, and I don’t think he gets caught up in the moment,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I think he keeps breathing and trusts his stuff.”
Muller showed some moxie when he didn’t blink after a Marcus Stroman bunt single and a Jonathan Villar single put runners at first and second with one out in the third. The 23-year-old responded by recording consecutive strikeouts of Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto, who whiffed on a slider to conclude a 10-pitch at-bat.
Alonso had another chance when he came to the plate with two on and one out in the fifth, but he grounded into a double play to end the threat and Muller’s outing.
“I’m pretty proud of myself,” Muller said. “The fans were rocking. Being able to stay composed and execute some big pitches right there was pretty cool.”
Guillero Heredia and Pederson each doubled around the third-inning single Muller recorded to account for his first big league hit. The Braves' other run came when Dansby Swanson doubled to begin the fourth and scored on Arcia’s grounder off Stroman.
“I trust myself swinging more than bunting, and it found a hole,” Muller said. “It's not how I pictured my first hit, but I'm not complaining at all.”