Baby Braves growing up fast, take 1st in NL East
NEW YORK -- Sean Newcomb has long been regarded as the kind of pitcher who might someday become a frontline starter on a contending team. On Wednesday night at Citi Field, "someday" seemed awfully soon, as the young left-hander pitched like an ace for a first-place team.
Newcomb pitched a gem, tossing seven brilliant innings and helping the Braves blank the Mets, 7-0.
Thanks to the best game of Newcomb's young career, Atlanta now finds itself in first place, a half-game ahead of New York in the National League East. It's the latest in a season that the Braves have been atop the division since July 2014. And although it's early May, manager Brian Snitker believes it's a big deal.
"The schedule that we faced the first month of the season, man, it's just like every night, it seems we are facing [Noah] Syndergaard, [Jacob] deGrom or [Max] Scherzer or [Stephen] Strasburg," Snitker said. "It keeps coming at you. There are really good teams. I'm proud of the way the guys have hung in there. We have been competitive. We have been in every game. We give ourselves a chance to win."
With Newcomb locked in, the Mets never posed a real threat. New York had runners in scoring position just twice, both times with two outs. Newcomb allowed two hits, struck out eight batters and walked only one. He retired the last 14 hitters he faced and threw 97 pitches.
"He got ahead. He got ahead quick," Mets third baseman Todd Frazier said. "He was working his fastball really well. He was getting some calls that could have gone either way. The frustrating thing is those kinds of calls that he's getting aren't really strikes, but credit him. He pitched a heck of a game."
It helped that Newcomb had command of his fastball, something he didn't have last season.
"He has come a long way," Snitker said.
Newcomb believes he has turned the corner and figured things out.
"Today I was just pounding the zone. I was pretty locked in," Newcomb said. "My curveball didn't feel too great. I had some that were good. The fastball felt good. The changeup felt good. That was probably the biggest key."
Atlanta's offense couldn't touch Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom for four innings. But once he left the game with a hyperextended elbow, the Braves didn't have any problems scorching the baseball, and it started against reliever Paul Sewald in the sixth inning.
After leading off with a double and advancing to third on a fly ball by Ronald Acuna Jr. , Ender Inciarte scored on a single by Freddie Freeman, who collected his 22nd RBI of the season.
By the eighth inning, Atlanta had added a combined seven runs against Sewald and right-hander Robert Gsellman. In the seventh inning, Inciarte hit a two-run homer before Johan Camargo hit a two-run shot and Ryan Flaherty homered immediately after in the eighth to give the Braves the comfortable lead.
In total, the Braves collected seven runs on nine hits against the Mets' bullpen.
"Our confidence is pretty high right now," Freeman said. "We have been playing great baseball since Day 1. To go out there and win games like that on the road, when we were down a game and a half to take over first place, it's big for us."
HE SAID IT
"We feel great. We are having a great start. We have a lot of young players on our team. The energy that we have on the field has been great. Hopefully, we are going to keep it up, stay consistent until the end. The goal is to play in the playoffs." -- Inciarte
The Braves play the finale against the Mets at Citi Field on Thursday at 1:10 p.m. ET. Right-hander Julio Teheran will get the start after leaving Friday's outing with a tight right trapezius. Left-hander Jason Vargas will take the hill for New York. He made his season debut last Saturday and allowed nine runs in 3 2/3 innings.