NEW YORK —
The Braves made it clear they’re competing for home-field advantage in the NLDS, and the last week of that endeavor began Tuesday night in Queens.
After a half-hour delay, the Braves defeated the Mets 7-3 in a monsoon that didn’t calm until midway through the night. They trailed 3-0 through six innings before once again flipping the ‘on’ switch.
It began the last road trip of the regular season on a high note, and the Braves sit one win away from the vaunted 90-plateau. They added to their National League-best road record, now 46-30.
“I don’t know what it is about these guys, but we’re sitting in there and (say) ‘Well, it must be the seventh or eighth inning.’ … But it’s become these guys’ m.o. They never quit in a game, they’re never down. It was good to see us come back.”
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard was excellent under angry skies. The powerful righty tossed six scoreless innings, lowering his September ERA to 2.24. He’d won his past six home starts, yet remains winless in his career against the Braves.
The visitors stalled until Syndergaard exited after 89 pitches, then scored seven unanswered runs. They greeted Drew Smith with a four-run seventh that displayed the first sign of life from the Braves’ offense on the night.
Johan Camargo doubled and scored on Kurt Suzuki’s single. Charlie Culberson walked. Rio Ruiz reached on an Austin Jackson error. Ronald Acuna dropped a ball in front of Michael Conforto, scoring the third and fourth runs.
Ozzie Albies capped the comeback with a long two-run shot that just stayed fair of the left foul pole in the eighth. His 24 homers rank second on the team, but he’s contributed just four in the second half.
“Ozzie’s working, man,” Snitker said. “He’s making adjustments. He’s an intelligent kid who realizes he needs to make adjustments, and he is. He’s putting together one heck of a year for his first full year in the big leagues.”
Touki Toussaint, who’s trying to earn his way onto the postseason roster, wasn’t staked optimal circumstances. He walked two in the first, and while they didn’t score, it continued a trend of slow starts for the youngster – a growing concern as he bids for a spot in the bullpen.
“It’s part of it,” he said. “You’re not always going to feel good. Glad I fought through that.”
In the third, Conforto’s hard-hit double was almost a home run, but scored Jeff McNeil nonetheless. Conforto scored on Jay Bruce’s single for a 2-0 lead.
Otherwise, Toussaint didn’t permit a hit. But he issued five walks and labored through 91 pitches across five innings. Toussaint’s development as a prospect is encouraging; his prospects as a playoff difference-maker are less certain.
“He danced around the fire,” Snitker said. “Made pitches when he had to. Command wasn’t real good, got it going in spurts. Breaking ball was really good. But if you’re not letting them cross home plate, that’s a good thing.”
The Braves have been thrilled with Toussaint. They love his physical and mental makeup. They see his stuff playing well in the postseason, especially against teams that have yet to see him. He can double as a pinch-running option, though that’s a lesser need given Lane Adams will likely be on the roster.
But the walks, specifically early on, are risky. Toussaint walked three in his last start against the Cardinals, one in the first inning. He walked four against the Nationals in just an inning’s work out of the bullpen. He walked five in Arizona, including the first hitter he faced.
“He’s a kid that has to get in the flow of the game,” Snitker said. “He slows the game down about as well as any young kid I’ve seen. The situation’s don’t seem to bother him. He walks the guys but he just keeps pitching, making big pitches and keeps the game in check.”
Toussaint denied thinking about his standing on the postseason roster, or even if Tuesday was his last appearance of the year. The team is considering Toussaint for a relief outing this weekend in Philadelphia.
“He’s in the (postseason) discussions,” Snitker said. “He has absolutely done enough that he’s going to be in the equation and the talks going forward (as a starter or reliever).”
Dan Winkler, meanwhile, has faded after a scoreless August. The Mets plated their third run on a pair of hits off the righty, who’d allowed seven earned runs in his past 3-1/3 innings. Winkler’s logged 60 innings this season, and he’s showing signs of bearing that burden.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson exited precautionarily with left hand soreness in the second inning and replaced by Culberson. The Braves won’t have his MRI results until Wednesday, but Snitker referred to it as concerning.
The Braves moved to 13-4 against the Mets, including a 7-1 mark at Citi Field. Their results against the Mets and Marlins, the NL East’s bottom-feeders, are why they were the first NL team to clinch.
Snitker will sprinkle in rest for his regulars, but the Braves are pursuing home-field advantage in the NLDS, if not the entire NL playoffs. They entered the night tied with the Dodgers at 88 wins. Los Angeles is playing in Arizona. Colorado, two wins behind, thrashed the Phillies.
Chicago lost, bringing the Braves within two wins of tying for NL homefield.
“We’re coming out here and attacking every game, trying to just win as much as we can, hopefully get a better ready and get homefield advantage,” Acuna said through an interpreter.
Video: Braves division series playoff schedule.