Wright’s homer, Perez’s 7 innings lead Mets to 3-2 victory over Atlanta
Perez outpitched an effective Tim Hudson, who used his top-notch sinker to induce a steady stream of easy grounders. But slumping leadoff batter Jose Reyes scampered around the bases twice and Wright delivered the big blow, sending the Mets to their fourth straight win and ninth in 10 games.
“We couldn’t have picked a better time than this to peak,” Wright said. “This is the best baseball we’ve played all season.”
The NL East leaders took the opener of a three-game series—and they hope to put away their longtime nemesis by the time it’s over. Chipper Jones (strained muscle) and Andruw Jones (flu) were scratched from the lineup minutes before the first pitch, leaving Atlanta without two big boppers.
The Braves, who began the day fifth in the NL wild-card race, fell five games behind front-running San Diego. They are 9 1/2 behind New York in the division, their largest deficit this season. Atlanta has 18 games remaining, 11 on the road.
“We know the calendar’s our enemy right now,” Hudson said.
The Mets started their surge with a three-game sweep in Atlanta— immediately after they were swept four games in Philadelphia. Now, they have a chance to all but lock up their second consecutive NL East title on this nine-game homestand—and they’re taking advantage of the opportunity.
New York is 4-0 since its 5-5 road trip. The second-place Phillies, who are six games back, come in next.
“Everything is starting to click at the same time,” Wright said. “It’s fun to just sit back and see the swagger that we have. That’s something that I think we’ve been missing a little bit this year, and we have that right now.”
Perez (14-9) put up zeros until Jeff Francoeur singled in the seventh and Brian McCann hit a two-run homer with two outs, cutting it to 3-2. But the left-hander regrouped, striking out Willie Harris with his 116th pitch.
“I told him during the game, since he joined the club, today was the best game he’s had,” Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran said. “I told him: `You need to get today’s tape and continue to pitch like that because that was a great performance.”’
Aaron Heilman worked a perfect eighth and a resurgent Billy Wagner got three quick outs for his 33rd save in 37 chances—his third in three days. Beltran made a sliding catch to end it, and the Mets (82-61) moved a season-best 21 games above .500.
Perez allowed five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. He is 4-1 with a 3.03 ERA and 32 strikeouts in five starts against Atlanta this year.
“When he keeps his arm slot up like he did tonight consistently, he’s real good,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “He throws strikes and the ball does what it needs to do.”
“I’m obviously not a very good baserunner,” Hudson said. “I’m hardly ever on second base. I don’t know what’s too close or too far. I guess I know what’s too far now.”
Perez then fanned Matt Diaz to end the inning.
“That was our best shot I think,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “The last four games with the Mets, we’ve averaged a shade over a run a game. You’re not going to win too many scoring less than two runs a game.”
Hudson (15-8) yielded three runs and five hits in seven innings, dropping to 2-2 against the Mets this season.
Beltran drove in Reyes with an RBI groundout in the first. Reyes drew a leadoff walk in the sixth and swiped second for his 75th stolen base. After Luis Castillo’s sacrifice, Wright drove a 2-2 pitch to left-center for his career-high 28th homer and a 3-0 lead, drawing more chants of “MVP! MVP!”
“It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling when you hear the chants, but you can’t buy into it,” Wright said.
After giving up consecutive singles to Reyes and Castillo to start the game, Hudson retired his next 13 batters—all on grounders, including seven straight to second baseman Martin Prado.
Chipper Jones strained a muscle on his right side during batting practice, potentially a huge blow for the Braves as they try to stay in playoff contention. It was uncertain how long the star third baseman might be out. Cox called him “doubtful” for Tuesday night.
Andruw Jones might be available Tuesday, Cox said.
The Braves fell to 16-23 in one-run games. … Mets LF Moises Alou extended his hitting streak to 15 games with his first triple of the season in the sixth. It’s the longest current streak in the majors. … Wright got his 31st stolen base in the eighth.