Braves Swept by Mets in Doubleheader
ATLANTA (AP) — Beaten twice in one day and just plain beat, the first-place Atlanta Braves were ready for some rest.
At least they’re done facing two of baseball top young pitchers in this series.
Matt Harvey struck out a career-high 13 and didn’t give up a hit until the seventh inning in New York’s 4-3 victory Tuesday, then Zack Wheeler pitched six scoreless innings in the nightcap for a 6-1 win in his major league debut that completed the Mets’ doubleheader sweep.
“It’s just been a rough last 24 hours,” B.J. Upton said.
The teams actually played three games in less than a 24-hour period. The series opener Monday was delayed nearly four hours by rain, before the Braves pulled out a 2-1 victory at 1:22 a.m. on Freddie Freeman’s two-run homer in the ninth.
Not even 12 hours later, the teams returned to the ballpark for the start of a day-night doubleheader. The Mets certainly looked like the fresher team, no doubt because of those two former first-round picks who are the cornerstones of New York’s rebuilding efforts.
“It’s a little exhausting,” Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons said. “I’m just glad it’s over.”
The Braves were helpless against Harvey (6-1) for much of the day. He pitched six hitless innings and had a career-high 13 strikeouts. John Buck homered for the Mets, who built a 4-0 lead.
Atlanta knocked out Harvey with a three-run eighth before the rally fizzled. Bobby Parnell struck out Chris Johnson with the bases loaded to end the threat, and then shut down the Braves in the ninth for his 10th save.
“Matt pitched a great game, but we battled,” Dan Uggla said. “Even though we were down 4-0, we still felt like we had a chance, especially at home. We’ve had a lot of magic at home this year.”
There was nothing magical about the nightcap for the Braves.
New York broke it open with a four-run eighth against Anthony Varvaro, taking advantage of some shaky defense. The Braves made two errors on one play when Varvaro’s pickoff throw to second base was low, skidding into center field, and Upton let it slide under his glove while racing in to back up the play. Marlon Byrd came all the way around to score by the time Upton retrieved the ball.
Juan Lagares added an RBI single and Omar Quintanilla finished off the Braves with a two-run hit.
It was a bruising day for the older Upton. In the fifth, he collided with brother Justin after catching a fly ball to left-center. Both were knocked to the ground but weren’t hurt. B.J. gave his sibling a playful shove on their way back to the dugout.
No one was laughing when it was over. The Braves went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Three times, B.J. Upton made the final out of the inning with a runner at second or third.
“We definitely had our chances to score some runs,” Simmons said. “We didn’t do anything with it.”
Wheeler gave up only four hits and struck out seven while consistently reaching the upper 90s on the radar gun. He struggled a bit with his control, walking five, but got out of every jam.
The performance was especially sweet since it came not far from where Wheeler grew up and came to prominence as a high school star at East Paulding High School in Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, before going in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft.
“I had some jitters going at first,” said Wheeler, who went back out to sign autographs in his full uniform after the game. “Then I settled down a little bit, probably the fourth or fifth inning I think it was, found a rhythm, settled down, and I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes.”
He was cheered on by dozens of family and friends, who roared loudly from their seats behind the Mets’ dugout. Also watching from a second-row seat behind home plate was former Braves star Chipper Jones, who sat with the young pitcher’s parents. Jones and Wheeler have the same agent.
“It was definitely an experience,” Wheeler said.
The Mets still have a lot of work to do, but the future looks a lot brighter with Harvey and Wheeler at the top of the rotation.
“I hope people saw this,” said manager Terry Collins, no doubt referring to New York’s long-suffering NL fans. “Certainly they’re going to enjoy watching these two guys for a long time. They’re going to be around.”
Wheeler was shaky in the first, walking two while throwing 23 pitches — only eight for strikes. Catcher Anthony Recker strolled to the mound to offer encouragement, and pitching coach Dan Warthen trotted out when Wheeler overthrew a pitch to B.J. Upton, the ball sailing far out of the strike zone. Third baseman David Wright also came over to offer some advice.
“You’ve got this,” he told Wheeler. “You’re better than them.”
Upton grounded out to end the threat, and the 23-year-old right-hander — the first child of the 1990s to play for the Mets — came back the next inning to strike out the side.
Recker, hitting just .158 coming into the game, broke up the scoreless duel between Wheeler and Paul Maholm (7-6) in the seventh, crushing his second homer of the season over the center-field wall to put the Mets ahead 2-0.
The Braves responded with a run of their own in the bottom half on Justin Upton’s sacrifice fly against Brandon Lyon.
That was their last hurrah.
Rookie Alex Wood (0-1) took the loss in Game 1 in his first career start, lasting just three innings and struggling with his command.
Wood, who had been pitching out of the bullpen, was lifted after throwing 73 pitches. He allowed two hits, walked three and struck out five, leaving with the Braves down 1-0. He had problems keeping his glasses on and battled a cut finger on his pitching hand, which affected his control.
“I wish my pitch count was a little lower,” Wood said. “But it was definitely a good experience.”
NOTES: The Mets swept the Braves in a doubleheader for the first time since Sept. 6, 2006, at Shea Stadium. .. Harvey eclipsed his previous career high of 12 strikeouts in a May 7 game against the Chicago White Sox. … Quintanilla snapped an 0-for-22 slump with a seventh-inning single in Game 1. … New York RHP Scott Atchison, just off the DL, was supposed to take over for Wheeler in Game 2. But the reliever injured his right groin while warming up and left the game without throwing an actual pitch. … The Braves’ record dropped to 4-21 when they fail to hit a homer.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.