Four days after he hit the Shot Heard ‘Round Braves Country, Freddie Freeman hit a shot that looked like it might provide an appropriate outcome on Chipper Jones tribute night at Turner Field.
But after Freeman put the Braves ahead 1-0 on his fourth-inning homer, Lucas Duda hit a three-run homer off Tim Hudson in the seventh to send the New York Mets to a 3-1 win before a sellout crowd of 51,910, the largest of the season in Atlanta.
“Very rarely do you feel like just one pitch cost you the game, but tonight it was one pitch,” said Hudson (16-7), who gave up the homer with two out on a sinker with the count full, on the ninth pitch. “It’s frustrating, obviously. We lost the ballgame on that one pitch. If I throw that same pitch [again], he might pop it up. He just got the barrel to it and hit it over the fence.”
The Braves had their five-game winning streak snapped and wasted a chance to gain a game on National League East leader Washington, which trailed 9-1 in the sixth inning at St. Louis when Duda took Hudson deep. The Nationals lost 12-2.
“It’s hard to feel bad about the loss when everybody showed me such a great day,” said Jones, who went 0-for-4 with four groundouts and said he was nervous as he’d been in any game since his major league debut in 1993. “I wish we had played better. I wish I had played better. But that’s baseball. A lot of Jonathan Niese and one big swing by Lucas Duda, but we’ll come back and get them tomorrow.”
It was only the third loss in 13 games for the Braves, but they probably couldn’t afford to lose any games to have any chance to catch Washington. The Nationals have a four-game lead over the Braves with five games left on the schedule.
Barring a final-week collapse by the Nationals, the Braves will play in the Oct. 5 Wild Card game at Turner Field against St. Louis.
Hudson was charged with five hits, three runs and one walk in seven innings in the loss, after winning his past two starts. He’s allowed just seven hits in 14 innings over his past two starts, including two hits and one unearned run in seven innings of a 2-1 win at Philadelphia on Sunday.
“When Huddy gives you a performance like he gave tonight, you feel like you’ve got a good chance to win it,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But we didn’t score runs. Bottom line, we didn’t score runs. You’re watching the scoreboard and see St. Louis, I think the last time I checked, up 9-2 or 9-1…. We’ve still got five games left. We’re four down. It’s a slim margin. You just hate to lose an opportunity with a pretty good pitched ballgame from Huddy.”
Atlanta clinched a wild-card spot Tuesday when Freeman hit a two-run game-ending homer to give them a 4-3 win against Miami. Freeman’s walk-off homer was just the seventh in major league history to clinch a postseason berth, and only the second to bring a team from behind. The other was Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard Round The World” for the 1951 New York Giants.
The Braves first baseman continued his recent power surge and season-long success against the Mets. Freeman has four homers in his past 15 games, and against the Mets he’s hit .352 with five doubles, five homers and 18 RBIs in his past 14 games.
But outside of Freeman’s homer, the Braves would muster almost no threat against Mets left-hander Niese (13-9), who allowed just four hits and three walks in seven innings and had more than one runner on base in only one inning.
Until the Duda homer, there was a palpable level of excitement in an overflow crowd. It was the seventh-largest in Turner Field history, and the ninth largest Braves home crowd since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.
“It was a playoff-type atmosphere,” Hudson said. “It was exciting. I enjoyed it. Fans were into it. Lot of stuff going on. Chipper smiled more than I think he has in a month. It was a cool day…. It’s just frustrating that one pitch put pretty much a damper on the night. I didn’t make a very good pitch right there. One pitch cost us the game. It’s probably the one pitch the whole at-bat that I didn’t feel like I made.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to him. It sucks on my part, but he done his job. Sucks it was a homer. If it’s a single, we might still be playing.
The first pitch was delayed nine minutes after a 30-minute on-field tribute to retiring third baseman Jones prior to the game. Hank Aaron, Bobby Cox and Jones’ parents and two of his four sons were among those who sat on a portable stage set up on the infield for the ceremony, and Cox, Aaron, Braves president John Schuerholz and catcher Brian McCann praised the 40-year-old third baseman.
“Yeah, I think I had a tear planted in the corner of my eye basically all night,” said an exhausted Jones. He smiled and added, “It’s pretty tough to hit when you’re misty like that. It doesn’t bode well for picking up rotation real well…
“I’m glad it’s over. I’ve been pointing to this day and nervous about this day and with all the friends and family in town coming here to watch, it’s been …I just want to concentrate on baseball. It’s been all the attention needs to take a backseat so we can focus on the job at hand. I’m certainly, I was telling some friends, I’ll be glad when tonight is over, so I can start concentrating on doing my job a little better.”
Niese is another of the lefties who’ve given the Braves trouble in recent years. He has a 2.97 ERA in 12 starts against the Braves, and Niese is 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA in his past seven starts against them.
Besides Freeman’s homer, the only other time the Braves advanced a runner to second against Niese was in the second inning, when Dan Uggla walked with one out and Andrelton Simmons hit a two-out infield single. Hudson grounded out to end the inning.
Niese is 5-3 with a 2.35 ERA in his past seven starts, and the Mets scored just three runs in 19 innings while he was in the games during his three losses.
The loss was only the second for the Braves in their past 13 games against the Mets. They are 10-6 against them this season with two games left this weekend, the last two games of the Braves’ regular-season home schedule.
The Braves will finish the regular season with a three-game series at Pittsburgh beginning Monday.