By CHARLES O’BRIEN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Mets starter Seth Lugo certainly likes pitching against the Braves.
The 27-year-old right-hander turned in the best performance of his career, pitching two-hit ball over six innings to improve to 3-0 against Atlanta as New York beat the Braves 3-2 to split a doubleheader Monday night. Lugo lowered his career ERA against Atlanta to 1.35.
Pitching with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, Lugo (7-5) allowed just a pair of singles. He struck out seven, didn’t issue a walk and retired his final 12 batters as New York won for the third time in 15 games.
“I think the fact that he knows he can pitch with this little injury that he’s got, and now with some rest and some exercises to strengthen it up, I think he knows he can avoid surgery,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Travis d’Arnaud helped New York rebound from a 9-2 loss in the opener with his solo shot in the eighth. It was the 219th homer for the Mets, a franchise season mark. The sparse crowd at Citi Field jeered when the home run apple didn’t rise after d’Arnaud’s homer, then cheered when it finally came out of the bin it’s housed in three batters later.
Brandon Nimmo matched a career high with three hits in the nightcap, including a single off starter Max Fried (1-1) to lead off the third. Juan Lagares, who had four hits in the doubleheader, hit the next pitch back to the mound, and Fried’s throw went well over the head of first baseman Rio Ruiz for a two-base error. Asdrubal Cabrera grounded to second to score the first run, and d’Arnaud followed with a double to deep center field to score Lagares.
Atlanta mounted rallies in each of the last two innings, finally breaking through against Jeurys Familia in the ninth. Kurt Suzuki singled and Freddie Freeman reached on a fielding error by Familia. Johan Camargo grounded out to advance the runners, then Jace Peterson singled to left to end the shutout bid.
Pinch-hitter Matt Kemp grounded to first to score Freeman, but Familia rebounded to retire pinch-hitter Tyler Flowers on a grounder for his fifth save of the season.
In the first game, Lucas Sims (3-5) turned in his second strong performance since returning to Atlanta’s rotation, allowing two runs and five hits over a career-high 6 2/3 innings.
“He’s pitching with a lot of confidence,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s pitching like he’s trying to get you out.”
New York’s Chris Flexen (3-5) took the loss after giving up four runs over five innings.
Joselin Reyes, the 8-year-old daughter of Mets infielder Jose Reyes, sang the national anthem before game one. After her performance, the elder Reyes embraced the younger Reyes and presented her with a large bouquet of flowers.
Braves: After leaving his start on Sept. 14 with a cut on the tip of his right middle finger, RHP Mike Foltynewicz is unlikely to make another start this season.
RHP R.A. Dickey (10-10, 4.32 ERA) pitches for Atlanta on Tuesday. He’ll be opposed by RHP Rafael Montero (5-11, 5.30 ERA). It could be the final start of Dickey’s career, who’s hinted at retirement after 15 seasons.