By LARRY FLEISHER, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Three pitches in, Ronald Acuna Jr. was off and running for a big night.
Acuna led off with his first big league triple and reached three times, Johan Camargo hit a two-run double in a three-run third inning and the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 4-2 Thursday night to extend their winning streak to four.
Acuna grounded inside the third-base bag and down the line. When left fielder Michael Conforto struggled to find the ball quickly, Acuna sped to third in 11.15 seconds, according to MLB’s Statcast. Acuna slid in headfirst as his helmet came off.
“I slowed down at first,” Acuna said through an interpreter. “I think we were all thinking double, double when it came off the bat, and I don’t think we expected it to take the hop that it did. So, I kind of slowed up at first and kind of turned it up a little bit.”
He scored when Ozzie Albies followed with a single. Acuna is hitting .357 (15 for 42) since being moved to the leadoff spot on July 20 and the Braves think the 20-year-old is even quicker than before since returning from a knee injury on June 28.
“I just know that when he came back from the injury he’s running faster than he was prior,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s got another gear. That speed’s a weapon for him.”
Making his second big league start in center, Acuna threw out Wilmer Flores trying to stretch a single into a double in the sixth. Flores initially was called safe by second base umpire Gary Cederstrom, but the call was overturned in a video review and Acuna was credited with his first big league outfield assist.
Mike Foltynewicz (8-7) won for the first time since July 11, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings. Three pitchers followed with one-hit relief as the Braves improved to 10-3 against the Mets this year.
“Just how hard he swings at the ball, kind of reminds me of Bryce Harper a little bit,” Foltynewicz said of Acuna. “Just very intimidating at the plate and when he puts the play, especially in the gaps, it’s awesome to watch him run.”
New York dropped a season-low 18 games under .500 at 44-62. The Mets have lost 41 of their last 60 games overall and 23 of their last 32 home games.
Jason Vargas (2-7) allowed four runs and six hits in five innings. He has not pitched past the fifth in any of his 11 starts.
“He had to get a few more outs than he probably should have, but I thought his stuff was good, crisp, had some swings and miss,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “Kept the ball down for the most part. That’s your typical Vargas. Kept us in the game and did his job”.
Todd Frazier returned from a ribcage injury and went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his first game since July 8. He was booed loudly when he hit an inning-ending popup in the sixth that stranded Conforto on third.
Brandon Nimmo hit his career-high 14th homer leading off the bottom half of the first, and Freddie Freeman had a go-ahead single in the third as Atlanta took a 4-1 lead. Freeman is hitting .400 (20 for 50) against New York this season.
Freeman’s single came after Acuna took second when the Mets could not execute a pickoff play.
“I tried to rush a little bit,” Flores said. “Just kind of got away a little bit.”
Pinch-hitter Luis Guillorme singled in a run for the Mets in the fifth.
Jesse Biddle pitched a perfect seventh, and Brad Brach struck out Conforto with a runner on second to end the eighth. A.J. Minter worked around a leadoff walk to Flores to remain perfect in seven save chances.
FAMILIAR FACES: RHP Kevin Gausman was activated two days, after being acquired from Baltimore and had the locker next to former Orioles teammate Nick Markakis. He also was reunited with infielder Ryan Flaherty and Brad Brach, acquired from the Orioles on Sunday. Gausman is slated to make his Braves debut Saturday.
Mets: OF Yoenis Cespedes had surgery to remove bone calcification in his right heel. He will have a second surgery on his left heel in two to three months. … LHP Steven Matz was diagnosed with a flexor-pronator strain in his left forearm and could be placed on the DL. The Mets said they will decide Friday, two days before Matz’s next turn. … INF Phillip Evans was placed on the DL with a broken tibia. He will be on crutches for at least three weeks and will not be able to resume baseball activities for a month. … RHP Bobby Wahl got two outs in the eighth in his Mets debut, his first big league appearance since May 23 last year with Oakland.
RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-3, 3.00) is to start for the Braves on Friday, two days after a rainout caused his turn to be pushed back. He is 4-5 with a 4.34 ERA in 13 starts against the Mets. New York RHP Jacob deGrom (5-6, 1.82) is 5-4 with a 1.80 ERA in 15 starts against Atlanta.