NEW YORK — Maybe those fans out in right field should just leave Ronald Acuña Jr. alone.
Razzed at Citi Field with 40,000-plus on hand, Acuña matched his career high with four hits and robbed Pete Alonso of a two-run homer as the Atlanta Braves built a big early lead and beat the New York Mets 9-6 on Friday night to rebound quickly in a showdown of National League East Division rivals.
"It was all night — but I like that. I like that, just because it kind of gives me that motivation to play extra hard," Acuña said through a translator. "I think tonight's game felt like a playoff game."
A night after the first-place Mets beat the second-place Braves 6-4 to start the five-game series, Eddie Rosario hit a three-run homer in the first inning and an RBI double in the second to help the Braves open an 8-0 cushion on the scoreboard. Rookie center fielder Michael Harris II also went deep and threw out a runner at the plate.
"That kid's everything — and he can do everything," Acuña said.
William Contreras added a solo homer in the ninth, and the Braves avoided their first three-game losing streak of the year. The last team to go this deep into a season without a three-game skid was the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who set the MLB record by not losing three in a row until a four-game slide from games Nos. 147-150, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (9-3) managed only three outs in a rare but untimely flop, and his teammates were unable to recover. Atlanta, the reigning World Series champion and the winner of the NL East the past four seasons, moved back within 3 1/2 games of New York.
"That was great, 'cause I mean, that kid's been throwing the ball really, really well. He's having a really good year," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "So that was nice to come out and score those runs early."
Walker gave up a one-out double to Dansby Swanson in the first, then caught his cleat on the mound during an aborted delivery to Matt Olson. The baseball fell out of Walker's hands and dribbled toward the plate for a ball, and the right-hander never looked right after that.
He was checked by pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and an athletic trainer, threw a warmup pitch and remained in the game, but Walker allowed an RBI double to Olson and hit Austin Riley with a pitch before Rosario lofted a 1-2 splitter into the right-field seats for his third homer this season.
Alonso tried to get the Mets right back in it in the bottom half, but Acuña leaped above the right-field wall to make a terrific catch. He pounded his chest, and Braves starter Ian Anderson raised an arm in celebration.
"I can see his motor starting to run a little bit, too, offensively. So that's really, really good. It's coming," Snitker said about Acuña, who also got his 23rd stolen base of the season, which he started late after working his way back from knee surgery to repair an ACL tear that forced him to miss the second half last year.
Rosario and Acuña both pointed to their ring fingers — a reminder of last year's World Series championship — to celebrate big moments Friday night.
Harris led off the second inning with his 10th home run, and Walker permitted four straight hits before he was pulled. The Mets had gone 27 games without allowing more than five runs, the longest such streak by an MLB team this year and the best in franchise history.
"Just wasn't a good day for me. Didn't have my best stuff and was one of those starts. I don't want it to happen in a big series like this, but it did," Walker said. "I didn't do my job today. The bullpen had to wear it, which I'm not proud of, at all."
New York cut its deficit to 8-5 and chased Anderson in a four-run fifth that included a two-run double by pinch-hitter Darin Ruf in his first plate appearance for the Mets after being acquired from the San Francisco Giants at Tuesday's MLB trade deadline.
"It takes a little bit of the pressure off," Ruf said.
Jeff McNeil had an RBI single, and so did pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar.
A night after Atlanta's Kyle Wright gave up a career-high four homers, Walker was charged with eight runs and seven hits as his ERA rose from 2.79 to 3.45.
"Our guys kept grinding," Mets manager Buck Showalter said. "We were able to get to a very good pitcher last night, and they were able to get to a very good pitcher today."
Anderson was removed one out short of qualifying for a win. A.J. Minter (5-3) struck out three batters in 1 1/3 perfect innings, and Raisel Iglesias whiffed two in a scoreless eighth after giving up a leadoff double.
It was Iglesias' debut with the Braves after he was obtained from the Los Angeles Angels just before the trade deadline.
McNeil homered off closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth.
The teams will play a day-night doubleheader Saturday. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 3.75 ERA) makes his Atlanta debut in the first game, and ace left-hander Max Fried (10-3, 2.58) will start the second. Odorizzi was acquired from the Houston Astros for reliever Will Smith at the trade deadline.
For the Mets, left-hander David Peterson (5-2, 3.54 ERA) gets the ball in the opener, followed by ace right-hander Max Scherzer (7-2, 2.13).