ATLANTA — One look at the Mets’ starting lineup Tuesday night was all it took to measure the degree of difficulty this team faced against the surging Braves.
The ugly numbers at the bottom were .210, .216, .200 and .167, representing the batting averages of Dominic Smith, Eduardo Escobar, Travis Jankowski and Patrick Mazeika.
Such is life for the Mets as they await returns from Jeff McNeil and Starling Marte and perhaps a trade to bolster the lineup.
An anemic showing at the plate, coupled with two home runs allowed meant a 4-1 loss for the Mets at Truist Park that evened this ballyhooed July series between the NL East rivals. The Braves returned within 1 ½ games of the division lead, a night after Max Scherzer’s seven-inning gem carried the Mets to victory.
Chris Bassitt and Charlie Morton are the scheduled starters for Wednesday’s rubber game, after which the Mets and Braves will still meet 13 times before the regular season concludes.
The Braves took control in the seventh on Adam Duvall’s two-run homer against Seth Lugo that placed the Mets in a 4-1 hole. Lugo, in his second inning of work, hung a slider that Duvall crushed into the second deck in left field. The blast followed Travis d’Arnaud’s leadoff single.
David Peterson’s 105th pitch of the night, a fastball to Matt Olson, landed behind the center-field fence for a two-run homer and gave the Braves a 2-1 lead in the sixth. Peterson had walked Dansby Swanson, and manager Buck Showalter tried to get the left-hander Peterson at least through the lefty-swinging Olson with Lugo warming in the bullpen.
Until the final pitch to Olson, the Mets couldn’t have asked for much better from Peterson, who struck out nine and walked three over 5 ¹/₃ innings.
Peterson walked Swanson in the first inning and allowed a single to Austin Riley, but struck out Marcell Ozuna on a 2-2 slider to end the threat. The Braves didn’t get another hit until Olson’s blast.
Barring an injury, Peterson may only have one turn in the rotation remaining, on Sunday at Wrigley Field. After the All-Star break the Mets are hopeful Jacob deGrom will be activated from the injured list, giving the team a full rotation for the first time this season. DeGrom is scheduled for a third rehab start in his comeback from a stress reaction on his right scapula on Thursday for Triple-A Syracuse.
The Mets knocked out Braves rookie starter Spencer Strider in the fifth. Brandon Nimmo walked and reached second on a wild pitch before Francisco Lindor delivered with a two-out hit to right that rolled under Ronald Acuña Jr.’s glove and went for an RBI triple that gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. Pete Alonso followed with a walk, ending Strider’s night at 103 pitches.
Over his previous three starts, Strider had allowed only one run over 18 innings with 30 strikeouts, featuring 100 mph heat. He entered play with 102 strikeouts in only 65 ²/₃ innings.
The Mets wasted a chance against Strider in the fourth, leaving runners on second and third following Escobar’s two-out double. Luis Guillorme, an offensive hero the previous game with his eighth-inning homer, had a single in the frame.