NEW YORK (AP) — Eric Hinske had just finished his midgame routine, stretching and swinging off a tee and preparing to possibly pinch-hit much later.
That’s when he walked into the Atlanta dugout and saw a most scary scene in the fifth inning — Braves rookie Jordan Schafer fouled a ball off his face and went down in the dirt.
After Schafer wobbled off the field and headed to a hospital for X-rays, Hinske was sent up to finish the at-bat. He struck out, but later hit a tiebreaking home run in the ninth off Francisco Rodriguez that sent the Braves over the New York Mets 6-3 Friday night.
“I was thinking I was going to try to ambush him,” Hinske said. “I took a chance on a first-pitch fastball and got ready early.”
Schafer was struck squarely around his upper lip and nose. A trainer helped him to the dugout with a towel pressed tight to his face. Schafer was set to have a CT scan and there was no report on the severity of his injury.
Booed as always, old Mets nemesis Chipper Jones began the Braves’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit with a leadoff home run in the eighth. Later in the inning, a two-out error by shortstop Jose Reyes let the tying run score.
“They’ve always provided me incentive to try to make left turns at first base instead of right,” Jones said of the New York crowds.
The long, long drive to left field was the 441st career homer for Jones. The drive apparently impressed Mets catcher Josh Thole, too.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever hit a home run where I heard the catcher say, ‘Oh my God!’ when I hit it,” Jones said.
Earlier, about 800 fans gathered on a pedestrian bridge beyond the right-center field wall to cheer Reyes and urge Mets management to not trade the All-Star. By the end of the game, the Citi Field crowd was booing another late collapse by the Mets.
The Mets set a dubious major league record: Their last six home losses all have come in games in which they led in the seventh inning. A day earlier, they pulled off their biggest comeback in 11 years when they rallied from a seven-run deficit to beat Pittsburgh.
“They’re aware of exactly what’s going on,” Mets manager Terry Collins said about his players. “They talked about it.”
“We’ve got to continue to work together, we’ve got to continue to work through these and add on some runs and try not to let it happen,” he said. “As I told Jose, ‘If there’s anybody I want that ball hit to, it would be him, so, hang with it.”‘
Rookie Freddie Freeman had three hits. His two-run double in the ninth gave the Braves extra insurance.
Craig Kimbel closed for his 17th save in 21 tries. His save total is the highest for an NL rookie before the All-Star break, breaking the mark that Yhency Brazoban set for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005. Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon holds the big league record in this category with 26 in 2006.
Jonny Venters (4-0) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. Rodriguez (1-2) was hit hard in the ninth.
Schafer squared around to bunt to start the fifth and Jonathon Niese’s pitch tailed in toward him. The ball deflected off his bat and hit the center fielder flush, and Hinske entered.
“I didn’t even know the count when I came up. I asked the umpire,” Hinske said.
Because Hinske came up with the count 0-2, the strikeout was charged to Schafer. But with one out in the ninth, Hinske’s drive barely over the right-field wall put Atlanta ahead 4-3.
Jones connected against Niese to get Atlanta within one. Still heckled because of all the big hits he delivered at Shea Stadium, Jones was batting under .200 at the Mets’ newer stadium when he homered.
Jones liked playing at Shea so much that he named a son after the old ballpark. Jones’ 46 homers against the Mets are his most against any opponent.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t have another one named Citi,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez quipped.
Jason Isringhausen relieved with two outs and walked slumping Dan Uggla. After a wild pitch, Alex Gonzalez hit a grounder that skipped past Reyes for the tying run.
Reyes opened the fourth with his major league-leading ninth triple. Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy and Angel Pagan hit RBI singles off Derek Lowe for a 3-1 lead.
NOTES: Jason Bay is 0 for 17 lifetime against Lowe after going hitless in two at-bats with a walk. … Alex Gonzalez lost control of his bat and it helicoptered three rows into the seats, sending a man’s beer splashing and showering the fans around him.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)