Homers cost Loe as Braves fall to Mets
Sweep slips away as fill-in allows five runs; Freeman hits 19th homer
ATLANTA -- In an effort to save Julio Teheran's arm for the playoffs, the Braves elected to skip the 22-year-old right-hander's scheduled start this week, selecting the contract of journeyman Kameron Loe from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill the void in the rotation.
Loe had shown flashes of consistent success over the past month with Gwinnett, but on Wednesday, he was not able to keep pace with Mets starter Dillon Gee. Home runs by Andrew Brown and Lucas Duda sent the Braves to just their second loss in their past 10 games, as the Mets avoided a sweep with a 5-2 win at Turner Field.
Luck had smiled on the Braves on two occasions this season in which Gee saw a sterling performance spoiled by a late-inning rally. It seemed only fair that multiple regulars would get the day off when Gee took the mound for Wednesday afternoon's series finale ahead of an upcoming seven-game road trip for the Braves, whose magic number for clinching the National League East is 10 after completing a 7-2 homestand. The 27-year-old right-hander stifled an Atlanta lineup that was missing Chris Johnson, Andrelton Simmons and Brian McCann, working seven commanding innings and finishing with one earned run allowed on four hits and a walk.
Making his first Major League start since Sept. 3, 2007, Loe struggled to keep the heart of the Mets' order in the yard. After Daniel Murphy legged out a triple in the first inning on a ball down the first-base line that Justin Upton struggled with in the right-field corner, Brown crushed a hanging slider halfway up the left-field stands for a two-run homer, Brown's sixth of the season.
"I felt great in the 'pen, and I think I was rushing a little bit once I got out there," Loe said. "[I] just didn't stay back and let my arm work and get the good action that I've had on my stuff lately."
Duda hit a pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark to lead off the top of the third inning, launching an 89-mph sinker well into the Atlanta bullpen for his 12th home run of the season. Duda sandwiched the no-doubter with a double in the first and a single in the fifth for his first three-hit game since June 17.
"It was a lot of fastballs from Loe," Duda said. "I was able to put a few good swings on them today."
The 6-foot-8, 240-pound right-hander was not fortunate enough to duplicate the escape act that stranded the bases loaded in the second inning. Back-to-back singles by Justin Turner and Travis d'Arnaud put runners on the corners following Duda's homer, and then Juan Lagares' chopper to third pushed Turner across on a fielder's choice. After second baseman Dan Uggla bobbled a would-be double-play ball that could have ended the inning, Gee sent a fly ball into left-center field that dropped between Evan Gattis and B.J. Upton as the result of a miscommunication, allowing Lagares to score.
"We didn't help him, either," manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Loe, who has allowed 11 home runs in 22 Major League innings this season for three clubs. "There were a couple plays where we gave up a couple runs, but nevertheless, he got behind in counts on some of the hitters, walked a couple of guys, [gave up a] big home run there by Duda and some extra-base hits. But overall, he gave us a decent outing, what we expected, what we wanted him to do."
Loe was pulled for long reliever Freddy Garcia after walking Gee, who had shown bunt throughout his at-bat, to put two men on with one out in the fifth inning. Just as he did in Sunday's 7-0 loss to Miami, Garcia displayed his effectiveness as an innings-eater, working 2 2/3 scoreless innings and retiring the final seven batters he faced. But like Sunday, the damage had already been done, and the Braves will leave town hoping that a fresh Teheran can more than make up for Wednesday's result down the stretch.
"The goal was to give him a breather, and I think [the effects will be seen] maybe not the next start, maybe a couple starts down the road, where he's capable of going the distance or getting a better start," Gonzalez said. "That's what we tried to plan to do a couple of weeks ago with [Mike Minor], and that didn't work out, he only got three days extra. But you have to think of the long haul sometimes, and I felt real good today that we had a good opportunity. We make a couple of plays and get a couple bloop singles when we needed to, it might be a different outcome."
Uggla temporarily got the Atlanta offense going with a line-drive single to left field to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. He scored three batters later on B.J. Upton's fifth RBI in his past five games, a sacrifice fly to center field. But aside from that manufactured run, the Braves were unable to put a dent in the early deficit thanks to Gee's feel for the strike zone.
"You guys saw what he did," said third baseman Elliot Johnson, one of two Braves to have more than one hit. "He's got three pitches or four that he's throwing in the strike zone whenever he feels like it. If you've got four pitches that you can command, it's going to be a tough day at the plate."
Freddie Freeman drilled a solo home run to right field in the bottom of the eighth inning, his 19th of the season, to cap the scoring. Freeman's 94th RBI tied his career high, achieved a year ago. But the Braves ultimately went quietly in the final day of a nine-game homestand, leaving town with more success to build off than frustration to ruminate on.
"It's funny, the game of baseball, you're as good as the last game you played," Gonzalez said. "I've been on airplanes after going 9-1 and you just happened to lose that last game, and you feel terrible. Same thing, we won two out of three, happened to lose the last one here and we feel terrible. But we've said our goal is to win series, and that's what we did. We won three of them."