NEW YORK (AP) — With one swift swing, Jason Heyward helped turn what could have been another disheartening road loss into an energizing victory.
Heyward hit a three-run homer to cap a six-run inning spurred by David Wright’s error and the Atlanta Braves shook off the road blues by starting a critical nine-game trip with a 6-4 victory over the New York Mets on Friday night.
“It’s great to be able to bounce back like that,” Heyward said after the Braves rallied from an early three-run deficit. “You’ve got to be able to take advantage of every opportunity.”
Tommy Hanson (10-11) won for just the second time in 14 starts and Omar Infante had a two-run double for the Braves, who came into the series in New York having dropped three of four at home and falling three games behind the Phillies in the NL East. Atlanta entered Friday’s games with a half-game lead over San Diego in the wild-card race.
Billy Wagner, working against his former team, threw a perfect ninth for his 34th save. But reliever Takashi Saito left after striking out the first two batters he faced in the eighth inning with shoulder pain. Cox said he is day to day.
“I have concern because I don’t know what’s wrong yet,” Saito said through a translator.
Injured six-time All-Star Chipper Jones gave his team a pep talk before the game, knowing this trip, with stops in Philadelphia and Washington, could make or break the Braves’ playoff chances. Problem is: the Braves are 31-41 away from Turner Field.
“I think we have a pretty close team. We’re always pulling for each other.” Hanson said. “That meeting was good four us.”
To form, though, Atlanta came out flat, managing just one hit in the first three innings against Jonathon Niese.
But thanks to a one-out throwing error in the fourth by Wright at third base, and a two-out walk to Hanson, the Braves rallied to end the Mets four-game winning streak.
“It got away from him when he walked the pitcher,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said of Niese. “That was the key.”
Melky Cabrera had a run-scoring single before Hanson walked to load the bases. Niese (9-9) then gave up a two-run double to Infante that went past a diving Wright before Heyward drilled a shot off the facing of the second deck in right field for a 6-3 lead. All the runs against Niese were unearned.
“We came right back,” manager Bobby Cox said. “They booted one ball then we started hitting.”
Cox’s opener to his final regular-season series in New York ended quickly. The Braves’ manager was ejected two batter’s into the second inning when he took exception with umpire Bill Hohn’s strike zone after a walk to Ike Davis.
After the brief delay during which Cox argued with Hohn and then first base umpire Gary Darling, the Mets turned the walk into three runs against Hanson, a pitcher they have previously struggled mightily against.
Josh Thole followed the walk to Davis with a single. Lucas Duda had an RBI single and, an out later, Niese and Jose Reyes had consecutive run-scoring singles for a 3-0 lead.
“He and I had a rough second inning,” Cox said of Hanson. “He did well the rest of the way.”
At first, Hanson was undecided if Cox’s argument had any affect on him, but he changed his mind, saying “I think giving up a hit to the pitcher killed.”
Hanson was 2-1 with a 0.73 ERA in four starts against the Mets coming in. And after that rough second inning, he settled to finish six innings, allowing only Duda’s first major league career homer.
Hanson’s only win over that 13-game stretch was over the Mets on Sept. 1.
NOTES: Niese gave up five hits and six unearned runs in four innings. He walked three and struck out four. … The Mets will honor Cox with a ceremony before Sunday’s game. … Mets OF Angel Pagan was a late arrival because he was scheduling doctors appointments for one of his children and was scratched from the lineup. He struck out for the final out of the game. … Cox has been ejected a major league-record 158 times, five this year.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)