Braves' late rally falls short in twin-bill opener
Carpenter allows two runs in eighth that loom large in Atlanta's loss
ATLANTA -- Facing Matt Harvey in the first game of a doubleheader that began approximately 12 hours after the previous game ended is a significant challenge. But after being on the wrong side of a lopsided affair at Turner Field in the early going on Tuesday afternoon, the Braves still managed to once again make things interesting.
After recording just one hit through the first seven innings, the Braves chased a previously dominant Harvey during a three-run eighth inning that made the Mets sweat out a 4-3 win in the first game of Tuesday's day-night doubleheader.
"You don't ever want to quit until it's over," Braves right fielder Jason Heyward said. "We got the type of lineup that can put up a lot of runs in a hurry."
As the eighth inning unfolded, it appeared the Braves were following a script similar to the one that unfolded during the wee hours of Tuesday morning, when Freddie Freeman ended Dillon Gee's shutout bid with a two-run walk-off home run in the ninth inning. But the two runs the Mets tallied against David Carpenter in the top of the eighth provided just enough cushion for the visitors to preserve Harvey's effort.
"I'm frustrated, because I ran out of gas there in the eighth," Harvey said. "I shouldn't have gone out there knowing I was probably pretty much done. I gave them a chance to come back and gave our team a chance to lose. I'm kicking myself for that. I don't like giving up runs, but in the long run, we won the game, and that's obviously all that matters."
Carpenter issued two walks, including one with the bases loaded, and hit a batter during the decisive eighth inning. The hard-throwing right-hander had issued just two walks while not allowing a run in the 5 1/3 innings he previously completed this month.
Fatigue might have influenced Carpenter, who tossed a scoreless ninth inning approximately 15 hours earlier to earn Monday night's win. He said this was the first time he has made consecutive appearances within this short of a time span.
"It's the first time I've ever done it," Carpenter said. "But it's part of being up here. It's part of being a big leaguer. You've got to be able to prepare for that kind of stuff. It's not always going to be the easiest role."
There has never been anything easy about facing Harvey, and this day was no different. The 24-year-old right-hander recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts and held the Braves hitless until Heyward's dribbler up the first-base line resulted in a leadoff single to open the seventh inning. But the tone of the game changed after Harvey took the mound to begin the eighth, having thrown 103 pitches.
"I think [Heyward's] hit kind of broke Matt's concentration," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That wasn't the same guy going out in the eighth inning. But I thought he was fine pitch-count-wise, and they had the bottom of the order up. I thought if he threw strikes, with as good of stuff as he's got, he'd get outs."
Harvey walked Gerald Laird to open the eighth inning and then surrendered consecutive singles to Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons to load the bases with no outs. This prompted the entry of veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who surrendered a one-out, two-run single to Jordan Schafer. Heyward cut the deficit to one run by scoring Simmons on a double off lefty reliever Scott Rice.
Mets closer Bobby Parnell ended the eighth-inning threat with a bases-loaded strikeout of Chris Johnson. Parnell then tossed a scoreless ninth to notch his 10th save and prevent the Braves from recording their 22nd comeback victory.
Braves rookie left-hander Alex Wood battled control issues and a bleeding cuticle on his left index finger as he lasted just three innings in his first Major League start. He had not thrown more than 35 pitches in any of the six relief appearances he made since getting his first callup to the Majors on May 30.
With Tuesday being Wood's first start since he completed seven innings for Double-A Mississippi on May 25, the Braves were planning to keep Wood's pitch count below 80. But they were hoping to see better command from the 22-year-old southpaw, who threw 38 of his 73 pitches for strikes.
Wood's finger began to bleed near the end of second inning. This made it difficult for him to throw his spike curveball that he likes to use against left-handed hitters.
"I would have liked my pitch count to be a little lower," Wood said. "It was my first time back out there in a couple weeks. I thought my stuff was really good tonight. I thought I competed really well. It definitely felt a little more at home getting back out there and starting again. It was definitely a good experience."
Wood recorded three ground-ball outs in a perfect first inning and pitched around the consecutive walks he issued at the start of the second inning. But after opening the third inning with two of his five strikeouts, he surrendered a single to Daniel Murphy and then walked David Wright.
Murphy scored when Johnson fielded Mets right fielder Marlon Byrd's two-out chopper and then double-clutched before throwing late to first base, allowing Murphy to race from second and beat Freeman's throw to home plate.
"[Wood] was a little bit erratic with his command," Laird said. "But he's young. He's still learning. I think he did a great job."
The Mets provided Harvey with a second run when John Buck opened the fourth inning with a solo home run against Cory Rasmus, who was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett to serve as the 26th man the Braves were permitted to have for the doubleheader.