ATLANTA -- Travis d'Arnaud joked that he owes James Loney "dinner for like a week," so imagine how Jeurys Familia feels. The closer was in the ninth inning of a two-run game on Friday, seeking to set a Mets franchise record for consecutive save conversions to start a season. Familia gave up a leadoff single and then hit a batter. Just like that, his record -- and more importantly, a Mets victory at Turner Field -- was in trouble.
But a pair of bizarre defensive plays changed things rapidly. First, Wilmer Flores started a double play on a sacrifice-bunt attempt to record the inning's first two outs. Then Loney made a spectacular pick on d'Arnaud's throw following a wild third strike, dragging his foot across first base to preserve an 8-6 Mets victory over the Braves.
"I always think in my mind I'm going to end the game, I'm going to give it the best I can for a win," Familia said. "The win today I think for everybody in this room gets us more confident to play, and to think how good we are."
Things have not always been easy or uncomplicated for Familia, who still carries with him the stigma of three blown saves in the World Series. When Familia endured a rocky stretch earlier this season, the concern around him lingered longer than perhaps seemed fitting for a closer of his stature.
But that stretch is over and, despite Friday's hiccups, Familia is by and large back to his old dominant self. In recording the final four outs of Friday's game for his 25th save, Familia moved past Armando Benitez, who opened the 2001 season with 24 straight conversions. Overall, Familia has converted a franchise-record 41 consecutive regular-season save opportunities dating back to last season, though it should be noted he surrendered a 4-run lead to the Dodgers on Friday, May 27. It was not technically a save situation when he entered, however, so the streak remained intact.
Benitez, at times, also needed some help from his defense. Familia's most impactful assist on Friday came from Flores, who dove to try to corral a Chase d'Arnaud bunt with runners on first and second and no outs. Right away, Flores realized he would not catch the bunt cleanly, so he picked it up, stepped on third base for one forceout and threw to second for another.
That left just one out for Familia to record, which he seemed to do on a nasty 88-mph slider in the dirt. But Travis d'Arnaud couldn't corral it, instead scrambling toward the backstop, retrieving the ball and firing to first. The catcher's throw forced Loney to pivot to the other side of the bag, where he caught the ball on a hop as he dragged his foot across the base and fell to the ground.
"I'm not sure if I saw it," Loney said, laughing. "I don't think that I did."
In either event, the result was a record-breaking save for Familia, who owns a 2.97 ERA and now a piece of history.
"For me, all the saves that I have are important, because every time I get the save is because we win," Familia said. "Everything I do on the field is to get the win."