NEW YORK (AP) – Marcell Ozuna hit a tying homer off shaky closer Edwin DÃaz with two outs in the ninth inning, Dansby Swanson scored automatic runner Adam Duvall with a leadoff single in the 10th and the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3 on Saturday.
New York loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th with no outs against Luke Jackson (1-0). Pinch-hitter Dominic Smith managed a sacrifice fly, but Jackson recovered and retired Wilson Ramos to end it.
Ozuna, signed to an $18 million, one-year free agent deal in January, energized Atlanta’s struggling offense with his opposite-field drive against DÃaz. Ozuna went with a 3-2 fastball just off the outside corner and roped it out to right field for his first home run with the Braves.
Mets reliever Hunter Strickland (0-1) was charged with an unearned run on Swanson’s RBI in Major League Baseball’s second game featuring an unpopular, new extra-innings rule that gives teams a free baserunner on second from the 10th on.
Strickland later bobbled a grounder, allowing Swanson to score, and also gave up an RBI double to William Contreras – the first big league hit for the younger brother of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras.
Duvall also homered for Atlanta, drilling a cardboard likeness of Mets All-Star Jeff McNeil’s dog with his solo shot in the second inning. Duvall’s homer was one of two hits against New York starter Steven Matz.
McNeil countered with a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the fifth, but DÃaz couldn’t make it stand.
An All-Star with Seattle in 2018, DÃaz labored through a brutal 2019 with a 5.59 ERA and seven blown saves. He gave up a whopping 15 homers in 58 innings and lost his job as closer.
DÃaz looked sharp in saving Friday’s season opener and was poised to convert saves in consecutive games for the first time since 2018.
Until Ozuna struck.
Just in time for Atlanta, too. The Braves struck out 15 times in 30 at-bats in Friday’s 1-0 loss and had just four hits Saturday before his drive.
Braves left-hander Max Fried opened with four hitless innings but stumbled in the fifth. Michael Conforto doubled and scored on Amed Rosario’s triple, and Rosario came home easily on McNeil’s sacrifice fly to deep left field.
Fried was pulled after the fifth. He allowed two runs, two walks and two hits while striking out five.
Matz followed Jacob deGrom’s opening day gem with another strong outing. The left-hander covered six one-run innings with seven strikeouts and one walk.
McNeil’s dog, Willow, was propped up next to images of Mets outfielder Michael Confortoâ€™s dogs in the first row behind the right field wall – one of many cardboard spectators placed around Citi Field for this 60-game season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.
â€œRight off the pooch!â€ exclaimed New York broadcaster Gary Cohen.
Conforto requested cardboard images of his dogs, Griffey and Kali, be put in the stands, but he didnâ€™t like that they were set up down the third base line for Fridayâ€™s season opener. He pulled them out of the seats during batting practice and had them relocated to right field so they could sit behind him while he played defense. Willowâ€™s likeness went along to keep them company.
Braves: The team’s primary catchers, Tyler Flowers and Travis dâ€™Arnaud, remained in Atlanta with coronavirus symptoms. Manager Brian Snitker said they are â€œstill not feeling great.â€ Neither has registered a positive test.
Mets: Reliever Brad Brach rejoined the team and confirmed he tested positive for the coronavirus, causing him to miss preseason camp. Brach and his pregnant wife both had mild COVID-19 symptoms. Jenae Brach gave birth to healthy twin boys, Carson and Brody, on July 17. Neither Brach or Jared Hughes – another Mets reliever who missed camp for undisclosed reasons – has faced live hitters yet, and itâ€™s uncertain when theyâ€™ll be game ready. … RHP Michael Wacha will start Monday against the Red Sox. Manager Luis Rojas has not yet named a starter for Tuesday, the fifth turn in the rotation. … LHP Stephen Gonsalves was claimed by Boston off waivers.
RHP Rick Porcello (14-12, 5.52 ERA last season for Boston) is set for his Mets debut Sunday night in the finale of a season-opening series against Atlanta. LHP Sean Newcomb (6-3, 3.16) is up for the Braves in the national TV game.
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