Mets beat Braves, regain first place in NL East

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ATLANTA (AP)—The up-and-down New York Mets are on a wild ride through September. Just when everyone thought they were headed for another collapse, they’ve won three straight to move back into first place.

Pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy delivered a tiebreaking double in the eighth inning and the Mets regained the NL East lead Friday night by beating the Atlanta Braves 9-5.

Jose Reyes hit a leadoff homer and had three hits to help the Mets move a half-game in front of Philadelphia, which lost 14-8 at Florida.

“Now, we start with another magic number. It’s our magic number time,” manager Jerry Manuel said with a hearty laugh.

Reyes also scored three runs and drove in two. David Wright ended a 1-for-19 drought by going 2-for-5 with two RBIs, and Nick Evans added a solo homer.

New York overcame some shaky defense and improved to 1-6 this season at Turner Field, where the Phillies went 9-0.

“I guess we were due,” Manuel said.

New York is 7-9 overall against the Braves, who have lost four straight.

Last season, the Mets blew a seven-game NL East lead with 17 to play and missed the playoffs as the Phillies charged to the division title. With 17 games remaining this year, New York had a 3 1/2 -game edge. Then it lost four of five and dropped into second place.

But the Mets have rebounded with three consecutive road wins, and Murphy was a big part of this one.

Called up from the minors Aug. 2, Murphy is hitting .374 with two homers and 16 RBIs. He is 14-for-30 (.467) in September.

“Murphy’s been huge for us all season. We’ve got to find a way to get him to the plate,” Manuel said. “You’ve got to manage to get him a shot. You know he’s good whether they throw a lefty or righty.”

The Mets batted around in the eighth and scored four times, including three unearned runs.

Carlos Delgado led off with a single against Julian Tavarez (1-3). Pinch-hitter Argenis Reyes sacrificed and was safe at first when second baseman Kelly Johnson dropped the throw for an error. Ryan Church struck out, but Murphy hit a drive to left-center on the first pitch, scoring both runners for a 7-5 lead.

“I was looking for a sinker or slider and got a slider over the plate,” he said.

As he stood on second base, Murphy said he felt “excitement and exhilarated all in one. I was happy to help my team win.”

Murphy was nearly picked off, but the Braves botched the rundown and he remained at second base. After Endy Chavez grounded out, Reyes followed with an RBI single, Luis Castillo singled and Wright drove in the final run with a single.

The Braves tied it at 5 in the seventh with an unearned run, helped by a pair of errors.

Pinch-hitter Brandon Jones led off against reliever Nelson Figueroa and reached on a throwing error by Reyes at shortstop. Martin Prado singled to right, sending Jones to third and when the ball went under Church’s glove for an error, Jones scored and Prado went to second.

Three Mets relievers followed in the inning and managed to end the scoring. Aaron Heilman got the big out, striking out Omar Infante with runners on first and third and one out. Pedro Feliciano (3-4) got the third out for the win.

The Mets took a 4-2 lead with three runs in the third on RBI doubles by Wright and Carlos Beltran and a run-scoring single by Delgado. During the inning, Mets fans among the crowd of 42,803 chanted “Let’s Go Mets!”

The Braves scored two runs in the second, helped by Wright’s error at third base.

With runners on first and third and two outs, Josh Anderson beat out a run-scoring single to third and another run scored on Wright’s wild throw to first. The Braves got to 4-3 in the third on a run-scoring double by Infante off starter Oliver Perez.

Perez went six innings. He gave up four runs—three earned—and six hits.

“It’s not easy to play catch-up against guys like Perez. But we managed to do it,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.

Braves starter Jo-Jo Reyes lasted 3 1-3 innings. He gave up seven hits and five runs.

“Jo-Jo didn’t get the job done. It’s as simple as that,” Cox said.

Notes

The leadoff homer by Reyes was his third of the season and the 14th of his career. It also was his 50th first-inning hit, a club record. He held the previous mark of 49 in 2006. … Mets RHP John Maine (shoulder), who went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 24, will throw to batters Saturday. … Atlanta 3B Chipper Jones had reached base safely in 41 straight games before going 0-for-3. He left with a sore right shoulder after being called out on strikes in the fifth. The shoulder had been bothering him recently. He is day-to-day. … Johnson had a bunt single to extend his hitting streak to 17 games.

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