Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead
ATLANTA (AP) — Dansby Swanson isn’t surprised the Atlanta Braves have fought back to climb atop the NL East.
He’s just surprised it took this long to get there.
“Just keep going,” Swanson said. “This is no time to celebrate. There’s four games left. So much left to be had of this season.”
Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.
The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.
Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, when Charlie Morton faces Mets right-hander Chris Bassitt, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“We’ve just got to take the same approach,” Olson said. “We know those guys are good that they started the last two days and we know Bassitt is a competitor as well.”
Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2.
“In those big spots, he’s one of those guys I like up there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Ever since he’s been here, he’s shined in that spot. He keeps the game slowed down and stays in the moment and gives himself a chance.”
Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into the Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.
Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.
Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.
New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.
“We’ve scored four runs in 18 innings,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s a real tribute to their pitching, but Max gave us a chance. He competed.”
The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar’s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.
Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuña Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.
Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.
“I felt like mechanically I was working east-west and me I want to work north-south,” Scherzer said. “I didn’t feel like I had good put-away pitches. I didn’t feel like my two-strike pitches tonight were as sharp as I usually have them. When I made mistakes, they made me pay and just couldn’t efficiently pitch tonight.”
The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.
Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.
Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.
Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.
The right-hander will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.
Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.
The Braves, who got home runs from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.
Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.
Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.
Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.
Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) pitches against Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.