Flushing, New York- Summer baseball is intensifying into October feels as Atlanta and New York jaw back and forth at one another for the top spot in the NL East division. With 40,305 fans in attendance on Friday evening, genuine playoff electricity and competitive buzz flowed through the air at Citi Field. “I like that, just because it kind of gives me that motivation to play extra hard,” said Ronald Acuña Jr. through a team interpreter during Friday’s postgame.
Well, Acuña has proven to gravitate towards clutch moments and the playoff-like atmosphere. The 24-year-old had himself a highlight reel type of night. To end the Mets bottom of the first inning, Acuña completed a breathtaking defensive web gem robbing Pete Alonso of an opposite field two-run homer. At the plate, Acuña tied his career high in hits for a single game finishing 4-5 with 1 run scored and 1 stolen base.
In his final at bat of the night, the Venezuelan superstar achieved a career milestone. In the top of the 8th inning, Acuña produced a single to center field, which marked his 500th career hit.
Along with Acuña, the championship pedigree from the Braves was in full force on Friday evening. Coming off a heated series opener loss, Atlanta rebounded successfully in game two of the five-game set. Atlanta began Friday’s affair with vengeance totaling 8 hits for 8 runs scored in the first two innings.
Before handing it to the bullpen, Braves RHP Ian Anderson tallied 4.2 innings pitched, allowing 4 earned runs with 7 hits, 4 walks, and 3 strikeouts. Each with home runs on the night, Eddie Rosario, Michael Harris Jr. and William Contreras added their marks in the 9-6 victory over NY.
On the other side, Mets RHP Taijuan Walker started the night on a rough note. Walker looked to slip off the mound in the first inning and appeared to be fine after a few practice pitches. Atlanta seemed to be all over his slider, which is Walker’s most effective pitch along with his splitter and four seam fastball.
His final line on Friday night was 8 earned runs with 7 hits (2 HR) in 1.0 inning pitched. “Just wasn’t a good day for me. Didn’t have my best stuff and was one of those starts. I don’t want it to happen in a big series like this, but it did,” Walker said during postgame.
He added, “I didn’t do my job today. The bullpen had to wear it, which I’m not proud of, at all.”
The Mets offense attempted late game heroics with scoring opportunities; however the early lead set out by Atlanta was too much for NY to battle back from. Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and Francisco Lindor each totaled two hits in the 9-6 loss. All together, the Mets combined for 12 hits with 17 runners left on base.
“Our guys kept grinding. We were able to get to a very good pitcher last night and they were able to get to a very good pitcher today,” said Mets manager Buck Showalter.
With Friday’s victory, the Braves cut the Mets NL East division lead down from 4.5-3.5 games. Atlanta and New York continue their enticing series of massive proportions today with a doubleheader beginning at 1:10pm and game two set for 7:10pm.
The pitching probables for game 1 are set for Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 3.75 ERA) to face David Peterson (5-2, 3.54 ERA). The second matchup in what I would call an all-out pitchers duel, Max Fried (10-3, 2.58 ERA) will take the mound for Atlanta as the 3-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer (7-2, 2.13 ERA) leads the Mets on the bump.
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Robert Rizzo writes for Latino Sports
Follow on Twitter: @RobertRiz994
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