ATLANTA -- The Mets had more important matters on their minds Sunday than exorcising the ghosts of Turner Field, which have haunted them for the better part of two decades. In the thick of a skin-tight National League Wild Card race, the Mets simply needed a win.But they could not
ATLANTA -- The Mets had more important matters on their minds Sunday than exorcising the ghosts of Turner Field, which have haunted them for the better part of two decades. In the thick of a skin-tight National League Wild Card race, the Mets simply needed a win.
But they could not have asked for a better sendoff to Turner Field, marshalling a parade across home plate in their 10-3 blowout over the Braves. Yoenis Céspedes clubbed a grand slam for his 30th homer and Seth Lugo contributed seven standout innings, moving the Mets a half-game in front of St. Louis for the NL's second Wild Card spot.
"For us, it's about winning games," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I don't care who they're against. We've just got to go in and win as many as we can."
It was Cespedes who broke things open in the third inning, extending a one-run lead to five with his slam off Williams Perez. The Braves starter felt some elbow discomfort as he threw the hanging curveball that Cespedes mashed. He lasted just one additional batter before leaving due to a right triceps impingement.
"We had two four-run innings against us," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "That doesn't help. It was just one of those days. It's tough when your starter leaves that early."
The Mets then piled on in the middle innings, with five of their nine starters -- including Lugo -- driving in runs. Lugo's primary contributions came on the mound, however, with seven innings of two-run ball. He improved to 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA in five starts since joining the rotation.
• You go, Lugo: Rookie learning on fly in bigs
"Just throwing strikes makes it easy to get more comfortable out there and relax, and make quality pitches," Lugo said. "It's been a lot easier since I've relaxed out there."
The Mets, meanwhile, improved to 67-106 all-time at Turner Field. Sunday's victory gave them seven road wins in a season against the Braves for the first time ever, dating back to their time in Milwaukee. The Braves will move to SunTrust Park in Cobb County next season.
With the loss, Atlanta became the first NL team to be mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, joining the Twins in the American League.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Slam-spedes: The game was not yet a blowout when Cespedes, who also homered Saturday, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the third. Cespedes took a Perez breaking ball in the dirt, before dropping his hands to line an 89-mph sinker into the left-field stands. There, a Turner Field employee caught Cespedes' fourth career grand slam with one hand.
Cespedes declined to discuss his grand slam after the game. "He's going to let his bat do the talking," a team spokesman said. More >
Bases crowded: The Braves recorded one hit through the first three innings and then opened the bottom of the fourth with four straight hits, including Adonis García's leadoff double and Freddie Freeman's RBI single. But after a Nick Markakis single loaded the bases, Lugo induced an Anthony Recker popup and got Dansby Swanson to ground into a double play. Jace Peterson ended the game with a double-play groundout to lower Atlanta's batting average with the bases loaded to .195.
"[Lugo] just made a lot of really good pitches in some big situations," said Recker, who caught the Mets' starter at the Triple-A level last year. "He didn't have a ton of trouble out there. There weren't a ton of guys on base when he was out there. But that one inning we really had a chance, and we let that one slip away."
Early exit: The Braves brought Perez back to the Majors last week hoping he had overcome the right shoulder ailment that had sidelined him most of this summer. But Sunday marked the second straight start in which his two-seam fastball lost life after the second inning and led to a third-inning exit. The right-hander will undergo further evaluation on Monday to determine the extent of what could be an elbow injury.
"He started out and looked pretty good," Snitker said. "Then as he goes and presses on, something is just not right there." More >
"I won't be missing the downtown traffic." -- Collins, when asked if he will miss Turner Field
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Brandon Snyder's pinch-hit solo shot off Lugo in the seventh inning was his eighth hit in 40 at-bats this year. He has four doubles, three home runs, one triple and no singles. .
WELCOME TO THE BIGS
Mets No. 3 prospect Gavin Cecchini made his Major League debut in the eighth inning, pinch-hitting for Lugo. One of a slew of September callups, Cecchini struck out against Brandon Cunniff in his only plate appearance.
"I've been up here for a few days, but you're not officially a big leaguer until you get in a game," Cecchini said. "So it was a good feeling."
Braves:Jeff Francoeur will return to Turner Field on Monday, when Atlanta begins a three-game series against Miami. Mike Foltynewicz will be aiming to win his fifth straight decision when he throws the first pitch at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Mets: With 19 games to play, the Mets will travel to Washington for their final three against a team with more than pipe-dream playoff aspirations. Though the Mets are all but mathematically eliminated from winning the NL East, they can continue their Wild Card surge with a strong series against the Nationals, who are entering their final stages of preparation for October. Rafael Montero will start Monday's 7:05 p.m. ET opener at Nationals Park.
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Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.