Mets Continue Downward Spiral In Atlanta
ATLANTA (AP) – Tommy Hanson knew exactly how long it had been since his last win.
“July 3,” he said without a bit of hesitation.
He doesn’t have to remember that date anymore. Hanson finally got some run support and won for the first time in nearly two months, allowing just one hit in seven shutout innings to lead the Atlanta Braves to their fifth straight win, 4-1 over the New York Mets on Wednesday night.
“At the end of the day, it’s always fun to see the ‘W’ beside your name,” Hanson said. “But the most important thing is the team winning, especially at this point in the season.”
Omar Infante and Jason Heyward combined for seven hits at the top of the Braves’ order, Martin Prado drove in two runs with a first-inning double and it could have been worse for the Mets if they hadn’t thrown out two Atlanta runners at the plate.
The Braves maintained a three-game lead in the NL East over Philadelphia, which beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1.
“Everyone feels happy where we’re at,” Hanson said. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we should have a lot of fun down the stretch.”
Hanson (9-10) had gone 0-5 over his previous 10 starts, largely because the Braves’ offense always seemed to struggle when the right-hander was on the mound. He allowed just 11 earned runs over eight of those appearances – and didn’t get a win in any of them.
The frustrating stretch seemed to get to Hanson in his last start, when he gave up back-to-back homers to start the game, four homers in all and took a 7-1 loss against Florida.
But he was in total command against New York, working off his 90-plus-mph fastball to stay ahead in the count and set up his breaking pitches. David Wright’s one-out double in the fourth was the lone hit surrendered by the Atlanta starter.
“When I’m commanding my fastball, that’s when I’m good,” Hanson said.
New York’s other hit was pinch-hitter Luiz Hernandez’s two-out, run-scoring single off Jonny Venters in the eighth. Billy Wagner worked a perfect ninth for his 31st save.
Heyward had twice as many hits as the Mets, putting up the third four-hit game of his rookie season – each time going the opposite way to left. He has fully recovered from a thumb injury that kept him from starting in the All-Star game and is hitting .450 (27 of 60) over his last 15 games.
“I’ve never been a person who tried to pull the ball,” Heyward said. “That’s what you have to do.”
Infante is nearly as hot. He had three singles – sprayed to all three spots in the outfield – to raise his average to .346. He’s reached base in 31 of his last 33 games.
The Braves started the game with three straight hits off Mike Pelfrey (13-8). Infante dumped a single to right and Heyward doubled into the left-field corner. Prado followed with a drive that rolled all the way to the wall for a double, giving Hanson a quick 2-0 lead.
Prado wisely tagged and went to third when New York rookie Lucas Duda – just up from Triple-A – made a sliding catch in the corner on Brian McCann’s fly ball. But Prado’s bravado caught up with him when he tried to score on Eric Hinske’s grounder to first baseman Ike Davis, who threw him out at home.
Atlanta doubled its lead in the second. Again, Infante and Heyward were right in the middle of things.
After Rick Ankiel singled and moved to second on Hanson’s sacrifice bunt, Infante yanked a run-scoring single to left. Heyward followed with another opposite-field double and Infante, running on the pitch, came around to score.
The Mets’ defense helped out again in the fourth. Infante picked out another spot for a hit, singling to center with two outs, but Ankiel was thrown out at the plate by Carlos Beltran.
Pelfrey, a bright spot for the Mets in a disappointing season, allowed nine hits and all four runs in five innings, breaking a streak of four straight starts in which he went at least seven innings.
“That team, top to bottom, is a great ballclub,” Pelfrey said of the Braves. “When you make a mistake against them, they make you pay for it.”
On the day rosters could be expanded, both teams put touted rookies right in the lineup on their first day in the majors. Duda batted seventh for the Mets and went 0 for 3. Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman started at first base and went hitless in three at-bats, including hitting into a double play.
Duda had faced Hanson in high school.
“He did the same thing to me then,” the Mets’ rookie said. “He has great stuff.”
Notes: Braves RHP Derek Lowe is still bothered by a sore elbow and will have to skip a start for the first time in his career. Kenshin Kawakami will step in Friday for the opener of a weekend series at Florida. … New York OF Angel Pagan (tendinitis, right wrist) should be back in the lineup for Thursday’s series finale, according to manager Jerry Manuel. … Mets RHP Jenrry Mejia, just up from the minors, will start Saturday against the Cubs.
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