NEW YORK -- When the Mets last won the National League East in 2015, they were sheriffs of the division. Boasting winning records against each of their divisional opponents, the Mets had their way with the teams they saw most often, finishing with a .618 winning percentage against them.
The dynamic has since shifted; while the Marlins are no longer the well of young, offensive talent they used to be, the Phillies and Braves have both improved. Atlanta's recent promotion of blue-chip prospect Ronald Acuna Jr., who joined Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson as part of the Braves' young core, only served to accentuate that reality this week at Citi Field.
Albies, Acuna and Freddie Freeman all scored runs before Noah Syndergaard recorded an out on Tuesday, leading the Mets to a 3-2 loss at Citi Field -- and giving them further evidence that beating up on the Braves, who have taken three of four from them this season, may be a thing of the past.
"They're pretty good," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "You put Acuna in there, Albies, all those guys, and Freeman can just flat-out hit. I don't care who you are pitching. They're pretty good and they play the game the right way. They're a really good team."
After Albies and Acuna opened the game with consecutive hits, Freeman lashed a two-run double to left field and Nick Markakis followed with an RBI single. Syndergaard did not deliver a perfect inning until the sixth, though he did scatter the rest of Atlanta's 10 hits against him from that point forward.
"They came out aggressive, ambushed me," Syndergaard said. "I just have to tip my hat to them on that. I wasn't gripping the ball all that well, so I was just forcing pitches in there instead of having them be free and easy."
• After thumb scare, Cespedes clubs 7th homer
In his return from a minor left thumb injury, Yoenis Cespedes went 3-for-4, launching a solo homer in the sixth inning to plate the Mets' only run against Braves rookie Mike Soroka, who was making his Major League debut. Soroka lasted six innings, striking out five.
"It's not like it shocked me," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I saw him in Spring Training and he is a very poised, mature [pitcher]. … He looked like he was out there doing his thing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Trailing by two runs against Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino in the ninth, the Mets received a spark when Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez singled to put the tying runs on base. The next batter, Amed Rosario, feigned two straight bunt attempts, pulling each one back and slashing at the pitches as Atlanta's infield crashed toward him. The resulting foul ball and swinging strike put Rosario in an 0-2 hole.
One pitch later, Rosario struck out. Two batters later, the game was over.
"I knew that the infield was playing for the bunt," Rosario said through an interpreter. "But realizing and noticing they were so close, that made me make the decision."
Syndergaard allowed 10 hits to match his career high. He had done so twice previously, both times as a rookie in 2015.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Three consecutive hits in the seventh inning gave the Braves a chance to add some insurance. But when Kurt Suzuki attempted to score on Ryan Flaherty's single, Cespedes threw a rope from left field to cut him down at home plate. Although Cespedes' throw came in well wide of the plate, it beat Suzuki by such a margin that catcher Tomas Nido had enough time to adjust and make the tag.
It was Cespedes' MLB-leading 66th outfield assist since his rookie season in 2012.
HE SAID IT
"I feel like if I go out there with my best stuff, I'm not going to have an issue. But I didn't have my best stuff tonight." -- Syndergaard
One of baseball's best pitchers in April, Jacob deGrom will look to keep rolling in May when he opposes Sean Newcomb and the Braves in a 7:10 p.m. ET game Wednesday at Citi Field. deGrom has not allowed a run in two consecutive starts, spanning 14 1/3 innings. Left-hander Sean Newcomb will start for Atlanta.