The Atlanta Braves left Citi Field late Sunday night with a pair of road wins over a National League East rival, but the opening series with the Mets really turned out to be an escape from New York that hinged on one late swing.
Now the reigning NL East champions begin a two-game series Monday night against the Tampa Bay Rays with a 6:40 p.m. ET first pitch from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Braves were blanked 1-0 Friday in their opener, and they appeared down and out and facing a two-game losing streak Saturday when they trailed by a run and were down to their last strike.
But new slugger Marcell Ozuna saved the day and gave Atlanta a chance for its first win.
Ozuna, an eight-year veteran with 148 career homers entering this season, sent a 97 mph fastball deep to right off Mets’ embattled closer Edwin Diaz, who allowed 15 home runs in the ninth inning in 2019.
The shot cleared the fence for homer No. 149, and the Braves scored three times in the 10th with the new extra-inning rules to claim their first win, 5-3.
It was sweet revenge for Ozuna, who struck out against Diaz in the shutout the day before.
“Yesterday, (Diaz) struck me out on a fastball away,” Ozuna said after Saturday’s win. “I couldn’t reach it. It was too far.
“So today I was talking to my teammates. I said if I get in a situation like that with two strikes and he tries to go away, I’m going to try to hit it straight at him or to the opposite field.”
Perhaps riding the wave of Saturday’s improbable win, the Braves routed the Mets 14-1 in the finale Sunday, pounding out 17 hits and getting homers from Ozuna, Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies.
Mike Foltynewicz, a Cy Young Award candidate two years ago during a campaign that featured a 13-10 mark and a 2.85 ERA, will make his first start this season on Florida’s west coast.
Foltynewicz, 28, is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in one career start against the Rays — a 5-3 home loss on May 19, 2015.
While the Rays have struggled to create offense, Brandon Lowe has been the exception to the slump, and the second baseman has played a major role in the club’s modest two-game winning streak.
Lowe ripped a two-run triple Saturday that carried the Rays to their first win, 4-1 over the Toronto Blue Jays, and he legged out a two-out single with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Sunday that forced extra innings, where the team rallied in the 10th to win 6-5 and earn the series win.
Following a pair of multi-hit games, Lowe is batting .455 (5-for-11) with two doubles and a triple — the only sweet swinger right now on a Rays team that is batting only .188 (18-for-96) through three games.
“A lot of really good at-bats,” manager Kevin Cash said of the ninth-inning comeback. “Guys didn’t expand out of the zone. Our bats are going to get going.”
Tyler Glasnow, 26, will make his season debut after a 6-1 mark last season that featured a 1.78 ERA in 12 starts, with the opposition hitting just .186 against him. The right-hander has made one career start against the Braves with no decision and a 3.00 ERA.
–Field Level Media