Braves beat Mets again for one-game edge in NL East

AP photo by Brett Davis / Dansby Swanson follows through on a single for the Atlanta Braves during the third inning of Saturday's home win against the New York Mets in an NL East rivalry matchup.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson isn't surprised his team has fought back to climb atop the National League East.

He's just surprised it took the division’s four-time reigning champions 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 standings.

Atlanta, which won the World Series last year, beat co-aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take its 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 in the regular season.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both are headed to the postseason, that's important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye, while the second-place team will host a best-of-three series in the wild-card round.

Right-handers will take the mound in the finale as the Braves count on Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29 ERA) and the Mets give the ball to Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27).

"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 of the season, 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 of the year 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.

The Braves, who got home runs from Olson, Riley and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers in 2022.

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 past 17 starts, and he’s the only 20-game winner in Major League Baseball this year.

Wright hasn't officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Los Angeles 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 National Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead MLB in wins. Houston Astros 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.

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.

Harris, a rookie, did have a big play in the field as he ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center for the first out of the third.

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 putaway 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 past six against New York to tie the season series at 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 this year.

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 Dodgers for the best record in MLB over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.