New York Mets and Atlanta Braves fans rarely agree. But for those who watched this past weekend’s series between the two teams, they must be in agreement over what transpired. Because what took place on the field was downright unusual.
You see, Bobby Cox’s club has been the pinnacle of professionalism for nearly two decades. The Braves won the National League East an unfathomable 14 straight seasons, from 1991-2005. It was the Mets who finally ended that streak, and the Phillies who have become the elite team in the division, but Mets fans will always fear the Braves.
So yes, New York’s sweep of Atlanta was a pleasant surprise for the Flushing faithful. But what was really shocking was how it all went down. The Braves committed seven errors in only 21 innings of defense during the series. I hate to say it, but it was almost as if the players switched jerseys on Friday afternoon. It was Atlanta playing sloppy baseball, and the Mets that took advantage of those mistakes. Yes, the tables were turned at Citi Field this weekend.
The biggest gaffe was certainly on Friday night. In the bottom of the seventh with one out and runners on first and second, Jose Reyes popped the ball up to the left side of the infield and was called out on the infield-fly rule. Although the shortstop was settling underneath it, third baseman Chipper Jones cut in front of him at the last moment, only to drop the ball. His misplay allowed the runners to advance.
Forgetting the rules, catcher Brian McCann, who ended up with the baseball after Jones’ boot, walked towards first base before flipping the ball to the first baseman, who tagged Reyes. Again, Reyes is already out. With home plate unoccupied, Angel Pagan made a mad dash and scored before Jones could field the throw and apply a tag. The Mets scored another run two batters later and won the game 5-2.
On Saturday, in the fifth inning of a scoreless game, the Braves had runners on second and third with one out. Troy Glaus lined out to right center. Had Yunel Escobar been paying attention, he would have been able to tag up and score. That’s certainly what Martin Prado was thinking, so he tried to advance from second. The only problem was, Escobar didn’t tag; he wandered a few steps from third, and right fielder Jeff Francoeur fired it to the infield. Reyes eventually tagged Prado for an inning-ending double play. The Mets won 3-1.
On Sunday night, perhaps because they were on national television or maybe because they sensed the rain might stop play, the Braves displayed their ineptitude earlier than usual. In the bottom of the first and two outs, Reyes walked, and then stole second. On the next pitch, Jason Bay hit a sharp grounder down the third base line. Jones made a nice backhanded play, but his throw to first bounced, handcuffing Glaus. Reyes sped around from second and scored. When the game was called due to rain after five innings, that unearned run was the only run, and the Mets had won their fourth straight.
Conversely, it was the fifth straight loss for Atlanta, a franchise that may no longer be the team to beat in the division, but is still above playing careless, lackadaisical baseball. For Mets fans, it was a welcomed role reversal, and regardless of how the Braves, or anyone else, play for the rest of the season, they’d like to see the Mets be the team that looks smart and focused.