ATLANTA — Freddie Freeman just wanted another chance after striking out four times.
The reigning NL MVP singled home the winning run with a low line drive that deflected off reliever Seth Lugo in the ninth inning, and the Atlanta Braves beat New York 4-3 on Thursday night despite 14 strikeouts by Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
“When you’re having the game that I was having, you want another opportunity,” Freeman said. “Just a great inning after they scored that run in the top of the ninth. That was a huge win for us.”
Dominic Smith homered twice for the Mets, including a tying solo shot off closer Will Smith in the top of the ninth.
Austin Riley hit a two-run homer as Atlanta scored three times in the first against deGrom, who recovered to throw seven innings and retire his final 18 batters.
“It’s a good job by Riley there," deGrom said. “I saw that he took the first two fastballs and swung at the slider, which wasn’t great, so it was like maybe if I go off here with a fastball I can get him. He was able to get the bat to the ball. It was a tough one because of that. I didn’t make too many mistakes, but the one pitch that gave them the lead there was a pitch where he beat me to that spot."
With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, Freeman shook off his earlier strikeouts by drilling the ball up the middle off Lugo's foot. It ricocheted to third baseman Luis Guillorme, whose throw to first was too late as the winning run scored.
It appeared Guillorme — if he had thought quickly in the moment — might have been able to scoop up the ball, change direction and step on third in time for a forceout that would have kept the game tied. That's what Lugo was shouting at the third baseman to do, but Guillorme fired off balance to first on a difficult play.
“It’s tough," Lugo said. “I was trying to yell at him, but it was pretty loud out there. I understand it’s tough to hear and to be able to make that reaction in real time, but that’s just the way it goes."
The ninth began with Guillermo Heredia reaching second on a throwing error by Lugo (1-1). He fielded the soft single in the grass and fell down as he made a wild throw to first. After Heredia advanced on a groundout and Lugo issued two walks, Freeman came through.
Dominic Smith had his first career multi-homer game came, hitting a solo shot off Braves starter Ian Anderson in the seventh to trim the lead to 3-2 and a drive off Will Smith (2-5) in the ninth that made it 3-all.
The Mets had won eight consecutive starts by deGrom, the major league leader with a 0.95 ERA, but the loss was their fourth in five games and 11th in 17 overall.
New York, in first place since May 8, has a two-game lead over Washington in the NL East. The three-time defending division champion Braves pulled within 3 1/2 games of the lead after taking two of three in the series.
“It’s frustrating," deGrom said. “You definitely wanted to come in and win a series and you weren’t able to do it. ... It’s definitely frustrating the way we lost in the ninth with the ball not leaving the infield."
DeGrom allowed three runs — his most all season — with no walks. The two-time Cy Young Award winner left for a pinch-hitter to begin the eighth. He gave up five hits to the first eight batters he faced and none after.
Anderson permitted three hits and two runs with two walks and two strikeouts in seven innings.
New York led 1-0 in the first when Francisco Lindor walked, stole second and scored on Michael Conforto’s single.
Atlanta tied it in the bottom half. Ehire Adrianza, filling in after Ronald Acuña Jr. was a late scratch, led off with a triple down the right-field line after fouling a ball off his right foot and scored on Ozzie Albies’ single. It was the first earned run on the road that deGrom has allowed this season.
Riley followed with his 14th homer, the first time deGrom has been taken deep by a right-handed batter this year, to make it 3-1.
“When he’s doing that, that kid has a chance to do a lot of damage," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.