ATLANTA -- Opposing pitchers might want to start keeping track of important dates in Charlie Culberson's life, like his family members' birthdays for example, because for some reason or another he keeps giving gift after gift in the form of game-winning home runs on those days.Moments after hitting the two-run
ATLANTA -- Opposing pitchers might want to start keeping track of important dates in Charlie Culberson's life, like his family members' birthdays for example, because for some reason or another he keeps giving gift after gift in the form of game-winning home runs on those days.
Moments after hitting the two-run home run to seal the Braves' 4-3 win over the Mets in the first game of Monday's doubleheader at SunTrust Park, Culberson laughed, saying it was his mother-in-law's birthday.
But this wasn't the first walk-off gift the Braves pinch-hitter had given in this form. Back in 2014, Culberson, who was with the Rockies at the time, delivered a walk-off home run to defeat the Mets … on his wife's birthday.
Culberson might have a flair for the dramatics, as three of his seven career home runs have been walk-off winners. His last regular-season homer came as another gift. This one to Vin Scully for his last home broadcast as the Dodgers' announcer on Sept. 25, 2016, when the Dodgers defeated the Rockies, 4-3, in the 10th inning.
And while Culberson's latest home run might not have been as dramatic as the walk-off win the Braves had tallied in what had been their most-recent home game, Monday's ending was every bit as exciting as Culberson fouled off two pitches from Seth Lugo, one of which was stroked down the left-field line.
"Usually you don't get that second chance, it doesn't seem like," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "When a guy sends one foul and hits one fair, that's very rare."
With the win, the Braves remained in first place in the National League East. This was their first home game since tallying a six-run ninth in a win against the Marlins on May 20, which included a walk-off hit from Dansby Swanson.
"We need to have games like this," Culberson said. "We need to have games where we're battling and down and then come out on top at the end. That makes for a fun season."
Culberson's pinch-hit homer erased the deficit created when Devin Mesoraco homered off Shane Carle to begin the top of the ninth. The solo shot was the second homer Carle has given up while allowing four earned runs over his past three appearances (3 2/3 innings). The Braves right-hander had surrendered just two earned runs over the 28 2/3 innings that preceded this stretch.
Mets starter Jacob deGrom had completed 16 consecutive scoreless innings against the Braves before he misplaced a first-pitch slider that Tyler Flowers hit over the center-field wall for a seventh-inning leadoff homer. The Braves stranded a pair that inning, but broke through in the eighth when Ozzie Albies produced a leadoff bunt single and scored on Nick Markakis' game-tying sacrifice fly.
deGrom threw a season-high 115 pitches while allowing one run over seven innings. The Braves received a good start from Max Fried, who was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to serve as the 26th roster member for the first game. Fried allowed two runs -- one earned -- and completed five innings while making his first start of the season and the fifth of his career.
"I thought Max threw the ball really well," Snitker said. "We kind of put him behind the eight ball there defensively, but he did a great job getting out of that first inning with just one run with just where he was. It's not like us."
Fried opened the game grazing Mets leadoff batter Brandon Nimmo across the midsection before an error by Swanson at shortstop put two on with no outs early in the game for New York. Back-to-back walks from Fried brought in the first of the Mets' three runs.
The Mets added a second run in the top of the fourth inning when Luis Guillorme lined an RBI double over Preston Tucker, who got the start in left field for an injured Ronald Acuna Jr., scoring Mesoraco from first.
• Acuna goes on DL with ACL sprain, knee bruise
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
First inning woes: Fried's first inning was laced with a little tough luck as he loaded the bases with just one out. The 24-year-old southpaw struck out Jay Bruce before walking in the Mets' first run of the afternoon. It would have been easy to give up more runs, but Fried was able to stop the bleeding, getting Guillorme to ground out to shortstop to keep any more damage from being done.
"It was a long first," Fried said. "Walked a couple of guys I didn't want. I definitely didn't like that walk that got that guy in but just tried to get outs, trying to make something happen. … For me, holding them to one run [helped me feel] really really comfortable and confident after that and trying to establish myself and keep getting through it."
Mets outfielders Michael Conforto and Jose Bautista may have gotten the best of Fried in the top of the fifth inning, but it was Fried who got his revenge on the two on the basepaths, becoming the first Braves pitcher to pick off two baserunners in the same inning since Kevin Millwood in 1999. Millwood picked off two Toronto baserunners on July 18th nearly 19 years ago.
Fried walked Conforto with one out but caught the Mets' center fielder a little too far away from the bag and off guard with a quick throw to Freddie Freeman at first. Bautista then singled to left field immediately after Conforto was picked off, but was caught stealing by Fried as the Braves pitcher threw behind him to Freeman who made an easy throw to Swanson at second who put the tag on a sliding Bautista.
HE SAID IT
"When you get a pinch-hit at-bat, you just have to be ready to hit, especially if it is somewhere close to the zone. Luckily, I got one up over the plate and put a good swing on it. -- Culberson
Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com.