The Braves’ Jordan Schafer loses his helmet sliding home on a wild pitch in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game. Feeling the sting of a doubleheader sweep one day earlier, Atlanta was able to turn the tide back in its favor in the fourth game of the teams’ unique five-game series.
Associated Press photo
ATLANTA — Kris Medlen issued a blanket apology to every coach he’s ever had.
At least he could laugh about an inexplicable defensive blunder.
Medlen shook off a Little League-like mistake with seven strong innings, Chris Johnson hit a three-run homer and the Atlanta Braves bounced back from a doubleheader sweep, beating the New York Mets 5-3 Wednesday night.
Johnson went deep in the fourth for his first homer since May 13. Jordan Schafer put the Braves ahead to stay with some gutsy baserunning in the fifth, scoring on a wild pitch that didn’t even roll off the dirt around home plate.
Atlanta evened the five-game series after losing twice on Tuesday.
Medlen (4-7) was still trying to figure out what he was thinking in the top half of the fifth.
With a 3-0 lead thanks to Johnson, two runners aboard and no outs, the right-hander got just what he wanted — a grounder right back to the mound.
An easy double play, right? Not so fast.
For some reason, Medlen whirled and threw to third — apparently thinking triple play — but the ball skipped past the bag and rolled toward left field. Instead of getting two outs, both runners came around to score.
“It was like I blacked out, and when I woke up, the ball was in left field,” Medlen said. “It’s one of those plays that as you’re making it, you’re like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’”
Manager Fredi Gonzalez wondered the same thing as he watched the play unfold.
“I hope no kids were watching that,” he said. “I’ve never seen that before. Maybe in 10-and-under baseball, but I don’t think I’ve seen that play — ever. Believe me, we don’t practice that.”
Medlen bounced back from the miscue, giving up six hits and only one earned run, while striking out seven. He didn’t walk anyone and even picked up the first stolen base of his career in the sixth. He had the bag in his locker after the game, a souvenir to help him forget that other play.
“We won, so I’m happy,” he said. “But it feels like we lost.”
Shawn Marcum (0-9) knows that that feels like. He became just the third pitcher in Mets history to start a season dropping nine straight decisions.
“Balls are not falling his way. We haven’t given him run support, either,” catcher John Buck said. “It’s just not going real well for him. When I’m back there, I feel like we’re in control of everything. It’s always just one mistake or that one inning that seems to bite him.”
The Braves scored first with two outs in the fourth. B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla hit back-to-back singles, and then Marcum left a 2-0 pitch over the plate to Johnson. He drove it into the left-field seats, slapping hands emphatically with first-base coach Terry Pendleton on his way around the bases.
“It felt good. Not just the homer, but hitting it with guys on base,” Johnson said. “I like to drive guys in.”
Medlen gave the runs right back in the fifth. Former Sprayberry High School star Marlon Byrd led off with a single and Lucas Duda was plunked, putting two runners aboard to set up the baffling throw to third. Kirk Nieuwenhuis followed with a bloop single just inside the right-field line to bring home Buck with the tying run.
“I deserved that,” Medlen said.
The Braves quickly reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the inning.
Schafer led off with a double and advanced on Andrelton Simmons’ sacrifice before Freddie Freeman walked. It looked as if Marcum might escape the jam when he struck out Justin Upton. But a pitch to Brian McCann bounced off Buck’s chest protector, rolling off to the catcher’s right.
Schafer was nearly halfway down the line already — the Mets shifted their defense against McCann, leaving only third baseman David Wright on the left side of the infield — and the runner broke for home as soon as he saw the ball get away. Even though it rolled only to the edge of the grass and Buck made a quick flip to Marcum covering home, Schafer slid headfirst under the tag.
“Great instincts,” Gonzalez said.
B.J. Upton followed with an RBI double that gave the Braves a two-run cushion, finishing off Marcum. He surrendered six hits and walked four in 4 2/3 innings.
Medlen pitched into the eighth, coming out after giving up a bloop single to pinch hitter Josh Satin leading off the inning. Luis Avilan got Mets newcomer Eric Young Jr. to hit into a double play, and Craig Kimbrel struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 20th save in 23 chances.
Marcum’s start is the worst for a Mets pitcher since Anthony Young lost his first 13 decisions in 1993 on the way to a 1-16 record. The only other pitcher in New York history to begin a season with as many as nine consecutive losses was Bob Miller, who started 0-12 in 1962 before winning his final decision with the woeful expansion Mets.
“It’s been a three-month ordeal for me,” Marcum said.
Young started in center field and led off for the Mets, less than 24 hours after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies. He singled on the second pitch of the game and finished 1-for-4. ... B.J. Upton had two hits and a walk. ... The Mets placed RHP Scott Atchison back on the disabled list after he injured his right groin while warming up for an appearance Tuesday night. He had just come off the DL for an ailing elbow, but didn’t even make an actual pitch before getting hurt again.