ATLANTA -- Yoenis Cespedes returned from the disabled list to drill a grand slam after an impressive start from Robert Gsellman as the Mets opened a doubleheader with a 6-1 win over the Braves Saturday afternoon at SunTrust Park.
Gsellman proved effective enough to overcome Sean Newcomb's impressive Major League debut. Gsellman surrendered three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings and benefited from a Newcomb throwing error that set the stage for T.J. Rivera to drive in the game's first run with a second-inning sacrifice fly. The Mets' starting pitcher retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced during his 106-pitch effort.
"I was staying in attack-mode and making pitches like I did before," Gsellman said. "I was trying to pick up [Asdrubal Cabrera, who struggled at shortstop] and as a teammate I got to pick them up sometimes. After the first inning, I got it out of the way and I felt like I was cruising a little bit."
• Matz leads Mets to nightcap win
Cespedes, who had missed the past six weeks with a hamstring strain, drilled a 1-1 pitch to left-center field in the ninth inning off Luke Jackson to give the Mets much-needed breathing room.
Braves manager Brian Snitker's decision to intentionally walk Michael Conforto just ahead of Cespedes' slam was influenced by his preference to keep some of his more attractive relief options available for the nightcap.
"I was just kind of hoping he makes pitches on [Cespedes] and he hits one on the ground," Snitker said.
The Mets overcame three errors, including two committed by Asdrubal Cabrera during Gsellman's 24-pitch first inning.
Newcomb, who ranks as MLBPipeline's eighth-best left-handed pitching prospect, scattered four hits and allowed just one unearned run as he recorded seven strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings. The inconsistent command issues that plagued him in the Minors were not visible, as the 6-foot-5 southpaw issued just two walks and registered 70 strikes over 96 pitches. He retired 11 out of the final 13 batters he faced and recorded the first two outs of his career by getting Juan Lagares and Conforto to look at breaking balls that were called for third strikes.
"They seemed to be pretty aggressive, but I felt pretty good," Newcomb said. "I was just being aggressive and attacking the zone."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Influential error: After Wilmer Flores opened the second inning with a single, Newcomb induced a Cabrera comebacker that had the potential to result in a double play until the pitcher's throw to second base sailed into center field. Rivera followed with a fly ball to center field that proved deep enough to allow Flores to beat Ender Inciarte's strong throw that bounced just in front of the plate and eluded catcher Tyler Flowers.
"I didn't even think I was going to be able to get a glove on [Cabrera's comebacker]," Newcomb said. "It hit my toe and went up into my glove. I got it and made a quick throw with it and obviously threw it into center field. It sped up on me a little bit."
Insurance run:Brandon Phillips prevented the Braves from being shut out when he opened the bottom of the eighth inning with a home run off Noel Salas. But the Mets had gained an insurance run against Luke Jackson in the top half of the inning. Jackson hit Conforto with a pitch, surrendered a Cespedes single and uncorked a wild pitch before surrendering Flores' sacrifice fly. Cespedes' single was his first hit since coming off the DL.
"That was big and it was great to have [Cespedes] in the lineup," Gsellman said. "We need that bat and it's always great to have him out on the field."
"We came out of Spring Training with a very good team but we were going to ride our pitching, and our pitching has been decimated. That is where it's at. If we had our pitchers, we could maybe get through some games without [Cespedes]. But he showed you today that he is a difference-maker."-- Mets manager Terry Collins
Mets: Steven Matz and Seth Lugo will make their season debuts after spending time on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. Matz will pitch Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader and Lugo will pitch the series finale on Sunday at 1:35 ET.
Braves: After sending Matt Wisler to the mound for Saturday's nightcap, the Braves will give the ball to Jaime Garcia in Sunday's series finale, which is scheduled to begin at 1:35 p.m. ET. Garcia has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his past four starts.
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