Ronald Acuna Jr leads Atlanta Braves past New York Mets in NL East showdown

NEW YORK (AP) — Maybe those Mets fans in right field should just leave Ronald Acuña Jr. alone.

Razzed at Citi Field with over 40,000 in hand, Acuña tied his career high with four hits and stolen Pete Alonso of a two-run homer as the Atlanta Braves took a big early lead and beat New York 9-6 on Friday night to bounce back quickly in their NL East showdown.

“It was all night, but I like it. I like it, just because it kind of gives me the motivation to play really hard,” Acuña said through a translator. “I think tonight’s game felt like a playoff game.”

Eddie Rosario hit a three-run homer in the first inning and an RBI double in the second to help the Braves open an 8-0 cushion. Rookie center fielder Michael Harris II also went deep and threw a runner at home plate.

“This kid is everything – and he can do anything,” Acuña said.

William Contreras added a solo homer in the ninth, and the Braves avoided their first three-game losing streak of the year. The last team to go this far in a season without a three-game slide was the Seattle Mariners in 2001, who set the major league mark by not losing three games in a row until a four-game slide at from matches nos. 147-150, according to the Elias Sports Office.

Starter dish Taijuan walker (9-3) managed just three outs in a rare but untimely flop, and his teammates couldn’t recover. Atlanta fell to within 3½ games of first place New York after losing Game 1 of the five-game series on Thursday night.

“It was great, because I mean, this kid throws the ball really, really well. He’s having a really good year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “So it was good to come out and score those points early.”

Walker gave up a one-out brace to Dansby Swanson in the first, then grabbed his cleat on the mound during an abortive delivery to Matt Olson. The baseball fell from Walker’s hands and dribbled toward the plate for a ball, and the right-hander never looked straight after that.

He was controlled by the pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and an athletic trainer. Walker threw a warm-up pitch and stayed in the game, but allowed an RBI double to Olson and hit austin riley with a pitch before Rosario landed a 1-2 splitter in the right field seats for his third home run this season.

Alonso tried to get the Mets back in the bottom half, but Acuña jumped over the right field wall to make a terrific catch. He hammered his chest, and the Braves starter Ian Anderson raised his arm in celebration.

“I can see his engine starting to rev a bit too, offensively. So it’s really, really good,” Snitker said of Acuña, who also got his 23rd stolen base. “It happens.”

Rosario and Acuña both pointed their ring fingers — a throwback to last year’s World Series championship — to celebrate big moments on Friday night.

Harris started the second with his 10th home run and Walker allowed four straight hits before being called out. He was charged with eight runs and seven hits as his ERA went from 2.79 to 3.45.

“It just wasn’t a good day for me. I didn’t have my best stuff and it was one of those starts. I don’t want that to happen on a big show like this, but it did,” Walker said. “I didn’t do my job today. The bullpen had to carry it, which I’m not at all proud of.

New York cut it to 8-5 and chased down Anderson in a four-run fifth that included a two-run pinch brace. Darin Ruf in his first appearance on the Mets’ board after being acquired from San Francisco at Tuesday’s trade deadline.

“It takes a bit of the pressure off,” Ruf said.

Jeff McNeil had an RBI single, as did the pincher Eduardo Escobar.

“Our guys just kept cringing,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “We were able to get a really good pitcher last night and they were able to get a really good pitcher today.”

Anderson was pulled one short to qualify for a win. A. J. Minter (5-3) struck out three in 1 1/3 perfect innings, and Raisel Iglesias snorted two in a scoreless eighth after giving up a starting brace.

It was Iglesias’ debut with the Braves after being signed from the Angels just before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

McNeil did a closer circuit Kenley Jansen in the ninth.

OUT OF CHARACTER

The Mets had gone 27 games without allowing more than five runs, the longest such streak by a Big League team this year and the best in franchise history.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Brave: RHP Darren O’Day (left calf strained) was to start a rehab assignment at High A Rome. O’Day has been out since July 12. … HPR Kirby Yates (Tommy John’s Surgery) will pitch again on Sunday for Triple-A Gwinnett. Yates pitched back-to-back games for Gwinnett on Tuesday and Wednesday for the first time since his injury in August 2020.

NEXT

The teams play a day-night double schedule on Saturday. HPR Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 3.75 ERA) makes his Atlanta debut in Game 1, and LHP Max fried (10-3, 2.58) will start the second. Odorizzi was acquired from Houston as a reliever Will Smith Tuesday’s trade deadline.

LHP dishes David Peterson (5-2, 3.54 ERA) gets the ball in Game 1, followed by a right-handed ace Max Scherzer (7-2, 2.13).

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