Nationals overcome six-run deficit in ninth inning as Mets’ bullpen melts down

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The Mets and Nationals played one of the wildest games you’ll see this season. It was fairly normal through seven innings, with the Mets leading 4-2. It was even higher scoring than expected, considering Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer started.

In the top of the eighth, the Mets tacked on an insurance run thanks to a Jeff McNeil solo homer, making it a 5-2 game. The Nationals answered back in the bottom half of the eighth, closing the gap to one run when Juan Soto went yard with a runner on base.

Seemingly putting the game out of reach, the Mets hung a five-spot in the top of the ninth. Lefty Roenis Elías served up a leadoff homer to Brandon Nimmo, then gave up a single to Joe Panik — both left-handed hitters. Daniel Hudson replaced Elías, but proceded to walk Todd Frazier, then gave up a two-run single to Jeff McNeil followed by a two-run home run to Pete Alonso. The Nats went into the bottom half of the ninth trailing 10-4. FanGraphs listed their win probability at 0.3 percent.

Paul Sewald began the inning, allowing a leadoff single to Victor Robles. Robles scored on a one-out double from Trea Turner. Turner moved to third on an Asdrúbal Cabrera single. Sewald would face one more hitter, serving up an RBI single to Anthony Rendon to make it 10-6. Lefty Luis Avilán entered, yielding a single to Juan Soto, the only batter he faced, to load the bases. With the game back in high-leverage mode, manager Mickey Callaway brought in Edwin Díaz, who has had a forgettable 2019. He proceeded to fork over a two-run double to Ryan Zimmerman to make it 10-8. The game then ended when Kurt Suzuki did this:

Suzuki’s walk-off three-run homer was not only a big swing in the game, it was huge in the standings. The Nationals were in danger of losing more ground to the Braves, who beat the Blue Jays on Tuesday. They would have fallen to 7.5 games back in the division. The Nats also would have given up some ground in the NL Wild Card race, entering the night holding the first Wild Card by 3.5 games over the Cubs, who lead the Mariners 5-0 as of this writing. The Mets, meanwhile, entered Tuesday trailing the Cubs by four games in the Wild Card. That will likely be five games shortly. They are fighting for the second Wild Card with the Phillies (who won on Tuesday), Diamondbacks (leading), and Brewers (won).

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.