By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Sean Newcomb kept striking out Mets batters even when he couldn’t rely on his big curveball.
For Braves manager Brian Snitker, that was an encouraging sign about the rookie left-hander’s future.
Newcomb recorded eight strikeouts, including five straight, and Atlanta beat Rafael Montero and the New York Mets 3-2 on Friday night.
Newcomb (6-5, 255 pounds) relied on his strong fastball. When he didn’t have a good feel on his curveball, he had to put a bigger emphasis on his changeup.
It was a confidence-building night for the 24-year-old and his manager.
“You see what the kid is capable of,” Snitker said. “He’s getting better.”
Newcomb (3-8) gave up two runs on six hits and one walk in 5 1/3 innings. His eight strikeouts fell one shy of his career high.
“I am getting a better grip with it,” Newcomb said of his changeup. “I’m a lot more comfortable with it than I was last year.”
The Mets have lost five straight.
Newcomb’s run of five strikeouts began after he allowed a run-scoring double to Dominic Smith in the fourth that gave New York a 2-1 lead.
Montero (5-10) was lifted with two outs in the fifth after throwing 108 pitches and allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks. He had walked 14 in his previous three starts.
Montero faced seven batters in the fifth before manager Terry Collins pulled him.
“I really don’t have an answer,” Collins said. “He was sailing along. Maybe a few too many pitches early.”
The Braves scored two runs in the fifth to take the lead. David Freitas doubled and scored on Ender Inciarte’s single. Montero walked Ozzie Albies and issued an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman, loading the bases.
Left fielder Brandon Nimmo made a diving catch on Lane Adams’ fly ball to the gap in left-center, driving in Inciarte. Adams replaced left fielder Matt Kemp, who had tightness in his left hamstring, to start the inning.
Arodys Vizcaino pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 13 opportunities.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (torn lat muscle) could be nearing his first appearance since April 30. Collins said Syndergaard will be evaluated on Saturday after throwing a bullpen session without restrictions on Thursday. The Mets will “then make the next step, whether it’s another bullpen or use him in a game,” Collins said. … SS Amed Rosario (pulled hip flexor) and C Travis d’Arnaud (twisted right knee) were held out and are day to day after leaving Thursday’s game against the Cubs.
Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz is expected to miss a start. He left Thursday’s game at Washington with a cut on his right middle finger. … C Tyler Flowers, hit by a pitch on his left hand Wednesday, is expected to be held out until Tuesday. … RHP Jason Motte (right oblique strain) was activated off the 10-day DL.
Since making his debut on Aug. 11, Smith leads the Mets with 20 RBIs.
ANOTHER SHORT START
Montero became the fourth straight Mets starter pitcher to fail to complete five innings. “We can’t get five innings out of a starting pitcher,” Collins said. “That’s what has hurt us.”
ANOTHER HONOR FOR ACUNA
Outfielder Ronald Acuna was announced as the Braves’ organizational player of the year in a pregame ceremony. The 19-year-old Acuna rose from Class A to Triple-A Gwinnett this season and hit a combined .325 with 21 homers, 82 RBIs and 44 steals. Earlier this month, Acuna was chosen as the minor league player of the year by Baseball America.
Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (14-9, 3.63) is 4-3 with a 2.29 ERA in 10 career starts against Atlanta. He has 10 games with at least 10 strikeouts this season, the fifth-highest total in team history.
Braves: RHP R.A. Dickey (9-9, 4.28) will look for his third win of the season against the Mets on Saturday night. He is 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts against New York this season and is 4-0 with a 2.57 ERA in five career games against the Mets.