Mets slugger David Wright had such a hot bat that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to have Tommy Hanson pitch around the right-handed hitter and face left-handed hitting Ike Davis with two out in the sixth inning of a tie game Monday.
The decision backfired when Davis pounded a Hanson curveball to the right-field bleachers, his three-run homer sending New York to a 6-1 series-opening win at Turner Field that snapped the Braves’ five-game winning streak and kept them winless in four against the Mets.
“I think it was … I know it was the right decision,” Gonzalez said. “He just left a breaking ball over the plate and he hit it out. That was the name of the ball game. One pitch. But I thought overall Tommy was very good. We just didn’t score runs like we had been against Milwaukee.”
The big crowds and noise of home-opening weekend against the Brewers were gone Monday, replaced by a small gathering of 16,161 that got quiet in a hurry after Davis’ homer put the Mets up 4-1.
“That was the pitch I wanted to make, and he put the barrel on it,” said Hanson, who lost his fourth consecutive start against the Mets. “Plain and simple. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your hat, and you’ve got to do that with him right there. That was the pitch I wanted to throw, and he got it.”
The Braves were swept at New York to begin the season, then lost one more at Houston before winning their next five against the Astros and Brewers. They fell to 0-4 against the Mets this season and have lost 12 of their past 18 games against them — after winning 26 of the previous 36.
“I never once thought that they’d be like a pushover or anything like that, and they haven’t been,” Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said of the 7-3 Mets. “They’ve been clicking on all cylinders so far, and we’ve really got to bear down and be competitive.
“Even thougt I think they have a good ballclub, I never expected to be 0-4 against them. It’s a funny game. We’ve got to obviously make an adjustment against them, because they’ve kind of put it to us these first four games.”
Hanson (1-2) was charged with five hits, five runs (four earned) and two walks in seven innings and fell to 0-4 with a 6.64 ERA in his past four starts against the Mets.
“I felt really good, and I still felt good [in the sixth inning],” he said. “I kind of threw around Wright right there and then put him on, and then Ike caught that curveball. I felt good and felt like I threw the ball well, just the results weren’t there.”
The right-hander joined Brandon Beachy (seven innings Sunday) and Mike Minor (7-1/3 innings Saturday) to give the Braves their first stretch of three consecutive starts of seven innings or more since May 14-17, 2011, when they had four such starts in a row.
Wright was batting .565 – best in the majors among hitters with at least 20 at-bats – when he was walked to put runners on the corners in the sixth inning. Wright was 4-for-21 against Hanson, including a first-inning single.
The Braves weren’t going to give Wright anything to hit, and after Hanson fell behind 2-and-0 they intentionally walked him to bring up Davis, who had been 2-for-14 with six strikeouts against Hanson.
His long homer gave the Mets a 4-1 lead – more than enough for Dillon Gee (1-1) and the New York bullpen. Hanson threw Davis five consecutive curveballs, and he hit a 2-2 pitch.
“Yeah, that’s what I want to do,” Hanson said of the pitch. “I don’t want to bounce it there, I want to throw it for a strike.”
The last chance to do some damage against Gee came in the seventh, after Uggla hit a leadoff single and Jason Heyward reached on catcher’s interference. They had two on and nobody out, but Eric Hinske struck out, Jack Wilson grounded out, and pinch-hitter Juan Francisco struck out to end the inning.
The Braves were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, dropping their average to .198.
Wright returned to the lineup Saturday after missing three games with a broken pinkie. The Mets are 6-1 in his starts.
The Braves lost for the first time in Chipper Jones’ four starts. He grounded out in all three plate appearances against Gee, who allowed only four hits and one run in seven innings.
After the Braves loaded the bases with one out in the second inning, Wilson gave them a 1-0 lead with a fielder’s choice grounder to short.
The Mets answered with an unearned run in the top of the third. Hanson walked No. 8 hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis to lead off the inning, and the rookie advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw by Hanson and a sacrifice bunt by Gee. Ruben Tejada drove him in with a groundout.
Hanson retired nine consecutive batters after the Nieuewenheis walk, and Wilson looked like he might give the Braves a 2-1 lead when he led off the fifth with a long fly to left that was about to land on the other side of the padded outfield wall … until left fielder Jason Bay made a leaping catch with his glove above the yellow line and brought the ball back.