Braves split 4-game series with Mets

NEW YORK — Nothing lost. Won nothing. Now, the Braves will spend the next five months trying to overcome the six-game division deficit they faced after finishing a four-game series with a 9-2 win over the Mets on Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field.

While it was good to see these two teams face off for the first time this season, the National League East would not be decided in May. But by putting wins around Tuesday’s ugly doubleheader, at least the Braves avoided being buried too far in the standings. The six-game deficit is equal to that of the reigning World Series champion against the Mets on July 28 last year.

But rather than counting on another wave at the end of the season, the Braves are hoping to get it right much earlier than last year. They showed some signs of turning the corner during a series of ups and downs.

“The chemistry in our team is very high and we are all having fun,” said Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “Good things happen on the baseball field and we communicate well. So yes, good things are coming.”

The Braves have only won one series this year and they started this road trip by losing two of the three to the final Rangers. But while they may not have found their stride yet, here were three encouraging things seen during this series:

hit in time
OK, there wasn’t an abundance of timely hitting. In fact, there really wasn’t any during Tuesday’s doubleheader. But d’Arnaud contributed a huge double in the sixth inning of Monday’s win and drew his first walk of the season to score the first run of the seven-run sixth that decided Wednesday’s game.

The Braves started Wednesday’s sixth after going 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position during this series. But Ozzie Albies, Adam Duvall, Dansby Swanson and Ronald Acuña Jr. had four hits with RISP in the big at bat. d’Arnaud interrupted this play by pulling a basesloaded walk, the only free pass he has pulled in 73 at bats this year.

Atlanta came in on Wednesday, hitting .159 (22-for-138) with runners in scoring position over their past 20 games.

“It was nice to keep the line moving a little bit with that one big inning,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “I don’t know if we would have done that this year. That was good to see. It shows that we are capable of that.”

The bottom of the order
Making the stand-up in the sixth inning even more encouraging was the fact that it featured Duvall’s double-double and Swanson’s RBI-single. The Braves need this duo to be productive to make the lineup less top-heavy and create more opportunities for Acuña Jr.

Swanson started slow, but has hit a team-best .341 with a .954 OPS in his last 13 games dating back to April 22. After producing what was only his third multi-hit game on Wednesday, Duvall still hit .191 with a .537 OPS and only one homerun.

Still, Duvall’s average exit speed and hard hit rate are higher than when he hit 38 home runs last year.

“Traditionally, I’ve started slower,” Duvall said. “I just need to clear some things up and then we’ll be right where we need to be.”

The energy of Acuña
Acuña was only 5-for-25 with one additional basehit since being activated from the injured list. But having played against the Mets in three out of four games, he showed no signs of being just 10 months away from a torn right ACL.

The energetic outfielder caused some excitement during Wednesday’s sixth inning when he got into a rundown and eventually sprinted around and past Francisco Lindor to successfully reach second base. After slipping and dusting, the 24-year-old star looked down at his dugout and playfully ran into place.

“I’m sure all medical people… [gasping] when they saw him running around like that,” said Snitker. “But it just shows you how healthy he is.”

Acuña set the Braves’ fastest first-to-home time (30.5 ft./sec.) in Monday’s series opener, and on Tuesday he smoked a double of 116.6 mph, making it the fourth fastest. hit ball that he has ever hit. He is not yet free to play every day, but it will be difficult to keep him out of the lineup as he shows more that his body and knee can handle the daily grind.

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