Díaz escapes in 8th, Mets take series from MLB-best Dodgers

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NEW YORK – Edwin Diaz struck out Gavin Lux on a 102.8 mph fastball to escape a jam in the eighth inning, and the New York Mets beat the major league-best Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 on Thursday.

Francisco Lindor hit a tying double in the sixth and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Darin Ruf after the Mets were held to one hit in five innings by Clayton Kershaw, who made his first start since Aug. 4.

NL East-leading New York took two of three from Los Angeles, its first series win against the Dodgers since Sept. 3-5, 2011. LA lost consecutive games for the first time since July 25-26. The last time the Dodgers dropped two straight at Citi Field was exactly seven years before that – July 25-26, 2015.

“They got a really good team,” Diaz said. “We showed them we have a really good team, too. That’s the team we might play in the playoffs.”

Chris Bassitt (12-7) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings for his fifth straight victory, matching his win total from last season with Oakland. He departed after the Mets took a 3-2 lead in the sixth.

New York led 5-2 when Diaz opened the eighth by walking Freddie Freeman and plunking Will Smith. Freeman advanced to third on a warning-track flyball by Max Muncy and scored on Justin Turner‘s flyball near the 408-foot sign in center.

“I was a little bit angry because I wasn’t commanding my slider the way I want to,” Diaz said.

After a mound visit from pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, Diaz escaped by whiffing Lux on the hardest pitch of his career and calmly walked off the mound. It was the fifth time in his last 13 appearances that the Mets closer pitched in the eighth inning.

“He’s the best closer in baseball for a reason,” Lux said.

It was only the third run allowed in the last 34 appearances for Diaz, who has converted 19 of 19 save chances in that span.

“I think he realized that he wasn’t carrying the normal torque on his breaking ball,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “He almost got hurt on a couple of them. He just decided to go to option B.”

Adam Ottavino followed with a perfect ninth for his third save.

Kershaw returned from a back injury and settled down after a rocky beginning. He struck out six and walked three but was on a pitch count and was pulled after throwing 73 pitches – three more than his simulated game on Saturday in Miami.

“First inning was a little rough obviously, but I’m thankful to kind of bounce out of that and get through five at least,” Kershaw said.

It was the 15th time Kershaw allowed one hit or fewer and third time this season.

Lindor’s single three batters in was New York’s only hit until Starling Marte opened the sixth against Chris Martin (4-1) with an infield single. One pitch after hooking a ball foul down the right field line, Lindor doubled to center field as Marte easily scored.

Lindor stole third on the second pitch of Ruf’s plate appearance, which came Showalter pulled left-handed hitting Daniel Vogelbach from the on-deck circle. After fouling off three pitches, Ruf lifted a high flyball to the left-field corner and Lindor trotted home.

Brandon Nimmo added an RBI double in the seventh when his popup dropped between second baseman Lux and right fielder Mookie Betts. Nimmo then scored on Marte’s single.

“Miscommunication, probably a ball I gotta catch,” Lux said.

Kershaw walked three in a 25-pitch first inning, including Mark Canha with the bases loaded – the eighth bases-loaded walk of the left-hander’s career and his first since 2015. Kershaw then got Jeff McNeil on a popup and retired his final 13 batters.

Chris Taylor hit a two-run single in the second for the Dodgers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: RHP Brusdar Graterol (right elbow inflammation) was placed on the injured list and will get an MRI Friday. … RHP Tony Gonsolin (right forearm strain) will get an MRI Friday and will remain shut down for a few more days.

Mets: C Francisco Alvarez, the club’s No. 1 prospect, was diagnosed with a loose body in his right ankle and a tentative plan is for him to resume baseball activities in three to four days based on his response to an injection. … Rookie 3B Brett Baty underwent surgery for a torn ligament in his right thumb.

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Dustin May (1-1, 1.64 ERA) makes his third start since returning from Tommy John surgery as Los Angeles opens a series Friday against visiting San Diego and RHP Yu Darvish (11-7, 3.41).

Mets: LHP David Peterson (7-3, 3.21) opposes RHP Josiah Gray (7-8, 4.67) of visiting Washington on Friday.

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.