ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves weren’t exactly in panic mode. Still, they were getting a little tired of losing to the New York Mets.
Well, the streak is over.
Showing patience at the plate and taking advantage of shaky defense, the Braves handed Johan Santana the shortest start of his career and romped to a 9-3 victory over the Mets on Tuesday night.
After four straight losses to New York, this one was never in doubt.
“We wanted to score early and take some pressure off ourselves,” said rookie Tyler Pastornicky, whose two-run double highlighted a five-run second that made it an early night for Santana.
The Mets swept a season-opening series in New York, then kept up their domination with a 6-1 victory Monday night. With Santana on the mound against rookie Randall Delgado, New York looked poised to win another.
But two costly errors — Jason Bay dropped a fly ball, Ike Davis made a wild throw — led to a pair of unearned runs against Santana (0-2), who allowed just one run in his first two games. He was lifted after 1 1-3 innings, finished off by Jason Heyward’s run-scoring single that made it 6-0. Santana had never gone less than three innings in his previous 265 starts.
“I didn’t even sweat,” he quipped.
Santana remembered that his last appearance in 2010 before undergoing major elbow surgery also came at Turner Field. He missed all of last season before another grim night in Atlanta.
“I felt fine. It was just a rough one,” Santana said. “They made me throw a lot of pitches.”
The night turned cool and blustery after an afternoon storm front moved through Atlanta, forcing the teams to use the indoor cages for batting practice.
The swirling winds led to some adventurous plays in the field. Leading off in the bottom of the first, Michael Bourn lifted a fly ball to deep left that looked like an easy out for Bay. After all, he had leaped above the wall the night before to prevent a homer by Jack Wilson.
This time, the ball deflected off the side of Bay’s glove at the edge of the warning track, an error that left Bourn at second base. He tagged and went to third on Heyward’s fly out, then did it again on Chipper Jones’ sacrifice fly.
The Braves blew it open in the second. Dan Uggla led off with a walk, Matt Diaz singled to center and Freddie Freeman kept fouling pitches off until he lined an opposite-field double into the left-field corner to bring home Uggla.
“I finally got a pitch to go with,” said Freeman, whose hit came on the 11th pitch of the at-bat.
Pastornicky followed with another opposite-field double, this one just inside the first-base bag to give Atlanta a 4-0 lead. Then, with Delgado putting down a bunt, Davis made an ill-advised decision to take a shot at Pastornicky instead of the sure out at first. It would’ve been close even with a good throw, but Davis flung it far wide of the bag, the ball skipping down the left-field line while Pastornicky trotted home.
Bourn finally made the first out of the inning on a grounder to second, but Heyward’s RBI single to left-center ended Santana’s night. He gave up four hits, walked one and didn’t strike out anyone — the first time that’s happened to him as a starter.
“We were just trying to be patient and get some good pitches to hit,” Bourn said. “We played some good baseball, moving runners over when we needed to. It paid off for us.”
The Mets took advantage of an Atlanta defensive miscue in the fourth. Bay lifted a popup behind second base, but Uggla never picked it up and none of his teammates arrived in time to make the catch. The ball fell to the ground, giving Bay a fortuitous double.
He scored on the first of three straight two-out hits, Josh Thole’s single to center. Kirk Nieuwenhuis kept it going, and pitch-hitter Mike Baxter ripped an RBI single up the middle to make it 6-2. Delgado escaped a potentially big inning by getting Ruben Tejada to pop out to Freeman against the railing in front of the Braves’ first-base dugout.
Tejada swiped at his bat in disgust, knowing he had missed a chance to get the Mets back in the game.
The Braves regained their six-run lead in the fifth against Ramon Ramirez. Diaz had a sacrifice fly and Freeman drove in his second run of the night with a two-out single.
Delgado went 5 1-3 innings and allowed three runs and seven hits. Kris Medlen got out of a jam in the sixth by striking out David Wright, and had 2 2-3 scoreless innings. Juan Francisco added a pinch-hit homer for the Braves in the eighth.
Wright had two hits, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
NOTES: Santana failed to get a strikeout for the first time since June 22, 2003, when he was pitching in relief for Minnesota. … Braves LF Martin Prado got the night off. Heyward moved up to bat second for the first time this season, while Diaz took over in left field. … New York’s R.A. Dickey (2-0) will face Atlanta’s Jair Jurrjens (0-1) in the series finale Wednesday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)