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Perez earns 1st save, will still start Monday

Starting pitcher finishes off strong 4 2/3-inning performance by Braves' bullpen

NEW YORK -- After spending much of the past three weeks consistently blowing late-inning leads, the Braves' bullpen rose to the occasion during Saturday's 5-3, 11-inning win over the Mets. But the stellar performance recorded by this relief corps concluded in an unexpected manner.

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Because closer Jason Grilli had been used to complete the 10th inning and two relievers -- Brandon Cunniff and David Aardsma -- were unavailable because of recent workload, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez utilized Monday night's scheduled starter, Williams Perez, to protect a two-run lead in the 11th inning.

"His side [session] would have been yesterday or today," Gonzalez said. "We held him back on purpose because we were a little short. The plan was for him to be used in an emergency, and today was an emergency."

After pitching around two singles and notching his first career save with a scoreless 11th inning, Perez walked off the field playfully saying, "I'm coming after you Grilli." But this nine-pitch appearance was just a temporary bullpen role for the right-hander, who is still scheduled to start Monday night's game in Boston.

"We didn't know how [Perez] was going to react, but we had no other option but to go to him and he did a nice job," Gonzalez said.

Recently promoted left-handed reliever Dana Eveland uncorked a wild pitch and allowed a runner he inherited from Shelby Miller to score on Lucas Duda's double in the seventh. But after Eveland faced just one batter, Nick Masset, Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson and Grilli combined to keep the Mets hitless and scoreless through the end of the 10th inning.

Gonzalez hopes this outing proves to be a much-needed confidence-booster for his bullpen, which entered Saturday having produced a 5.61 ERA over the previous 19 games.

"Even [Friday] night, our bullpen was pretty good," Gonzalez said. "I hope this carries over."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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