ATLANTA - Hello Richmond?
Received package. Enjoyed contents.
Got another reliever or two to spare?
The Braves' plea for help was only partially answered Sunday night with the arrival of Chad Fox and Mike Cather. Unfortunately, the pair of rookie relievers could only offer four shutout innings.
With veteran pitcher Mike Bielecki on in the 10th inning, another game got away from the Braves.
Alex Ochoa's first pinch hit of the season was a two-out home run driven deep into the left-center field stands, lifting the New York Mets to a 7-6 victory over the Braves before 42,111 fans and a national ESPN audience at Turner Field.
"We had a great hitting series, but we didn't get a lot of pitching," manager Bobby Cox said. "We gave up too many walks and too many runs. We didn't pitch very good."
This loss wasn't entirely the bullpen's fault. Starting for the first time in a week, Denny Neagle was presented with a 6-0 lead after one inning and the All-Star left-hander couldn't hang onto it. Butch Huskey feasted on two of his pitches, blasting a two-run homer in the second inning and a three-run homer in the fourth for a career-high five RBI.
"It's not like they beat the dog pants off us," Neagle said. "We let them back into a few games. I'm pretty mad at myself because that's pretty pathetic to go out there and let them get it back like that."
The only bright note to an otherwise disappointing evening was Fox and Cather's debuts. The two rookies combined for four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk. A crowd unaccustomed to seeing a reliever escape an inning unscathed saluted Fox with a standing ovation after he stranded runners on first and third in the fifth inning.
Bielecki (3-6) wasn't nearly as effective. The right-hander, 1-3 with two blown saves in his last seven appearances, got two outs in the 10th, then left a fastball over the middle of the plate to the .217-hitting Ochoa.
"We have enough pressure down there without feeling every pitch is under a microscope," Bielecki said. "Obviously it was a bad pitch. If it's a good pitch you get them out. That's the way things are going for me right now."
The win went to ex-Brave Greg McMichael (6-6), who is 3-0 against his former club.
A lineup missing Kenny Lofton, Javy Lopez and Jeff Blauser shocked the Mets by scoring six runs in the first inning against All-Star Bobby Jones. The Braves sent 10 men to the plate and produced six hits, including two-run doubles by Andruw Jones and Neagle, and run-scoring singles from Fred McGriff and Eddie Perez.
New York's comeback started with the first of Huskey's homers, then he pulled the Mets to with a run with his second home run. Finally, in the fifth, they tied it on Manny Alexander's double and second baseman Mark Lemke's error on John Olerud's grounder.
"It was pretty ugly," Neagle said. "I definitely didn't feel comfortable out there. I started pressing instead of relaxing. I felt lethargic and my control was terrible."
A bullpen that played a role in the first two losses of the series, ended a forgettable weekend with three new faces, but a familiar result.
Said left fielder Ryan Klesko, "It's one of those games you can't believe it's over and you lost."
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