ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves trotted out past heroes before their home opener, from Hank Aaron to Sid Bream, Fred McGriff to Chipper Jones. They then remained unbeaten by defeating the New York Mets, 5-3, at Turner Field on Friday night.
Mets prospect Rafael Montero, transitioning to bullpen work, surrendered a leadoff double to Chris Johnson in the eighth that dropped narrowly beyond the reach of Gold Glove center fielder Juan Lagares. Things got crazy from there in the tie ballgame.
Montero struck out Christian Bethancourt, then Andrelton Simmons sent a grounder to third base. Rather than make a comfortable throw to first base for the second out, David Wright tried to tag Jace Peterson, a pinch runner for Johnson, who was headed toward third. Peterson went right around Wright, eluded the tag and was safe. To make matters worse, no one was covering second, so Simmons coasted there.
With two in scoring position and one out, the Mets intentionally walked Alberto Callaspo to load the bases. Cameron Maybin struck out for the second out. Phil Gosselin then fouled off a full-count pitch and deposited the next into center field for a two-run single as the Braves took a two-run lead.
Feared closer Craig Kimbrel might have been traded to the San Diego Padres on the eve of the season, but successor Jason Grilli navigated the ninth for his third save of the young season as the Mets dropped to 2-2.
Oh, captain: Wright’s career-high 203 at-bat homerless drought is over. After Braves left-hander Eric Stults was perfect the first time through the Mets’ lineup, Curtis Granderson walked to open the fourth and Wright launched a two-run homer. John Mayberry Jr., subbing for Lucas Duda in the No. 3 hole, followed by going deep too as the Mets evened the score at 3-3.
Wright last had homered in a regular-season game on July 11, 2014. He did have four long balls during spring training though, which suggested he again could generate power after dealing with a shoulder injury during the second half of last season. Mayberry was making his first start as a Met.
Shortcomings: Wilmer Flores committed a pair of throwing errors over the first three innings, leading to two unearned runs. He also threw high and wide on Freddie Freeman's fifth-inning grounder, but Michael Cuddyer applied a tag to prevent a hat trick.
Flores has three errors in a two-game span.
Not so Niese: Jonathon Niese's season debut did not begin well. The southpaw surrendered a homer to Maybin to lead off the first. Niese ultimately was charged with three runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks in five innings. He threw 86 pitches.
Niese twice left the bases loaded by retiring Simmons on fly balls to right field.
Debutant: Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin made his major league debut in a tie ballgame against his original organization. The southpaw began the bottom of the seventh with lefty-hitting Nick Markakis and Freeman due up for Atlanta. He retired both and departed with the score remaining 3-3.
It’s a hit: Mets pitchers will not duplicate last season's lengthy season-opening hitless streak. Niese had a fifth-inning single against Stults. Mets pitchers were a modest 0-for-8 before that.
They were a collective 0-for-64 to begin 2014 until Jacob deGrom singled on May 15, in his major league debut. The pitchers’ hitting futility was a major league record to begin a season.
What’s next: Dillon Gee, who looked like a goner during the winter, then a reliever until Zack Wheeler's MRI showed a ligament tear, makes his season debut. Gee opposes right-hander Julio Teheran (1-0, 1.50 ERA) on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET.