published Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Braves tie Mets in 10

KISSIMMEE, Fla.—Atlanta’s bullpen is coming along just fine without Billy Wagner.

Craig Kimbrel, Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill each pitched a perfect inning Saturday as the Braves and New York Mets played to a 3-3 tie in a split-squad game that was called after 10 innings.

Pitching in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, Kimbrel retired the side in the ninth on a strikeout and two grounders. He struck out the final two batters after a one-out double in the eighth when the teams played Friday in Port St. Lucie.

“It felt good today,” the rookie right-hander said. “It seems like I always feel a little better the second day. I don’t know why that is.”

Kimbrel, who was dominant at times late last season, is expected to share closing duties with left-hander Jonny Venters after Wagner decided to retire.

“I feel like we can run any of us in the bullpen out there at any time and be successful,” Kimbrel said. “It looks like it is going to be an exciting time.”

With Venters and Kimbrel both getting their first taste of the majors last year, the Braves brought in veterans Sherrill and Linebrink to complement the young duo.

“They both have great arms,” Sherrill said. “It always takes me a while to get ready in spring training, but they both seemed ready to go from the beginning.”

Linebrink, acquired in a trade with the Chicago White Sox, struck out the first batter in the seventh. Sherrill, signed as a free agent, got grounders for two of the outs in the eighth.

“They all threw well,” catcher David Ross said. “All three had clean innings. They are all getting into their form.”

Brooks Conrad hit a two-run homer in the fourth for the Braves, and Nate McLouth had a tying sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Willie Harris homered for the Mets. Ike Davis finished with two hits and drove in a run.

Rodrigo Lopez, in a three-way battle for the last spot in Atlanta’s rotation, allowed three runs, one earned, and three hits in 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander struck out five and walked three.

Mets starter Pat Misch pitched five innings, yielding three runs and four hits. The left-hander struck out two and walked one.

Conrad’s first spring homer came with two out. The second baseman, who had made two errors against the Mets on Friday, also came up with one of the plays of the game in the field, making a diving stop in the second inning.

“It hurt a little bit,” Conrad said. “The ground is hard.”

While Lopez was pitching against the Mets and Brandon Beachy was facing the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, the other contender for the fifth spot in the Atlanta rotation pitched in a Triple-A game. Left-hander Mike Minor gave up four runs, three earned, and five hits in six innings.

“I’m very happy actually,” he said. “I accomplished what I wanted to do. I threw some good curveballs.”

At Lakeland, the other group of Braves lost 2-1 to the Tigers on Andy Dirks’ two-run triple in the ninth inning.

Dirks’ winning hit came off Arodys Vizcaino after singles by Brennan Boesch and Scott Sizemore.

Jordan Schafer led off the game with a triple and scored the Braves’ run on an Alex Gonzalez single.

Beachy gave up one hit and three walks in five shutout innings, striking out three.

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