ATLANTA -- Julio Teheran was bound to eventually allow the Mets to score a run against him. But he would have rather not done so on a night when the Braves were unable to solve a struggling hurler who was forced to start on short rest.As Teheran was proving vincible
ATLANTA -- Julio Teheran was bound to eventually allow the Mets to score a run against him. But he would have rather not done so on a night when the Braves were unable to solve a struggling hurler who was forced to start on short rest.
As Teheran was proving vincible en route to Wednesday night's 4-1 loss to the Mets at SunTrust Park, the offense was being subdued by Jason Vargas, who entered the game as one of baseball's worst starting pitchers and exited it with the satisfaction of having been a capable substitute for the injured Noah Syndergaard.
"It's just one of those days," manager Brian Snitker said. "[Vargas] was on. He was spotting his fastball, just the whole thing. We had a hard time getting hold of him."
With this loss, the Braves fell out of first place in the National League East. They sit a half-game behind the front-running Nationals, who come to Atlanta to begin a four-game series on Thursday.
To add injury to insult, the Braves bid adieu to first place on a night they were damaged by key hits delivered by their former third baseman, Jose Bautista, and Adrian Gonzalez, the highest-paid player on Atlanta's payroll.
Gonzalez agreed to be part of the financially motivated trade that sent Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in December with the knowledge that he would immediately be designated for assignment and released. His season batting average against the Braves improved to .333 after he delivered an RBI double in the fourth inning and an RBI single in the eighth.
Gonzalez's double ended the 22-inning scoreless streak Teheran had constructed against the Mets. Then Amed Rosario tripled and scored on Brandon Nimmo's two-out single in the seventh against the veteran, who allowed just the two runs over seven innings.
"They scored in the fourth with a couple of doubles," Teheran said. "The other [run] was in the last inning with a triple and a blooper. Other than that, I thought everything was working pretty good."
Teheran's effort would have seemingly been enough on a night when the Braves were facing a short-rested pitcher who began the night with a 10.62 ERA over five starts, just one of which had lasted five full innings. But Vargas effectively used his two-seam fastball and changeup to neutralize a Braves team that entered the game with an NL-best .283 batting average against left-handed starters.
"He's a pitcher we're not accustomed to seeing, just the style he throws," third baseman Johan Camargo said through an interpreter. "He's not killing you with [velocity]. We just need to make adjustments."
The Braves had won three of their past four home games in walk-off fashion. So, in the seventh inning, when Camargo marred Tim Peterson's Major League debut with a home run that looked similar to the one that ended Tuesday night's game, there was reason to wonder if another comeback was looming.
But Jeurys Familia got Nick Markakis to ground into a double play to end an eighth-inning threat and the Mets added an insurance run in each of the final two innings. Bautista, who was released by Atlanta on May 20, doubled and scored on Gonzalez's single off Sam Freeman in the eighth.
"It's kind of scary out there when the Braves come up in the bottom of the ninth and we're only up by two runs or so, especially on this road trip, we've had some tough ones, some tough losses," Nimmo said. "So, to be able to get that last run was really big. I was glad to be able to help out there."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman recorded consecutive singles to put runners on the corners with one out in the eighth and the Mets leading, 3-1, Markakis delivered a sharp grounder that had a chance to add to his NL-best hits total. But Rosario dove to his left to snare the ball before flipping to second base to begin the rally-killing double play.
"I had a good feeling right there, and then they make a great play on Nick's ball," Snitker said. "That thing was two inches from being a base hit."
Vargas has not allowed a run in either of his starts this season that consisted of at least five innings. He allowed at least four runs in each of his other four starts, which combined equate to a 14.09 ERA.
Teheran has a 1.63 ERA over his past 13 starts against the Mets dating back to June 21, 2015. He has a 4.48 ERA over 32 starts made against other NL East opponents during this span.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With Ronald Acuna Jr. on the disabled list and the Mets starting a couple of left-handers this series, Charlie Culberson has proven his defensive skills aren't limited to the infield. Culberson played left field again on Wednesday and made a sliding grab to rob Bautista of a hit on a liner that had a 110.3-mph exit velocity.
HE SAID IT
"He's having a hard time finishing hitters off right now. That's going to happen. His stuff was crisp tonight. He had some giddy-up on his fastball. He was just off a little bit. It's going to happen." -- Snitker, on Shane Carle, who has allowed five earned runs and eight hits in the four innings he's completed since producing a 0.69 ERA through his first 26 innings
The Braves' bid to remain atop the NL East will be influenced by how they fare during this weekend's four-game series against the Nationals at SunTrust Park. Sean Newcomb will oppose Tanner Roark when the series begins on Thursday at 7:35 p.m. ET. Newcomb has a 2.10 ERA over the nine starts he's made since allowing the Nationals a season-high five earned runs in his April 2 season debut.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.