Curtis Granderson came to the plate seven times on Sunday afternoon. He finished with no hits. But the slumping outfielder delivered a sacrifice fly to score Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the bottom of the 14th inning to lift the Mets to a 4-3 victory over the Braves.
It had been a brutal day for Granderson, whose batting average dipped to .127. Boos rained in the seventh, when he tried and failed to bunt his way aboard, an acknowledgement of just how poorly he has started the season. To that point, he had already left the bases loaded with a tapper to first base, struck out on a nasty changeup, and cost the Mets a run when he threw a ball into the Braves' dugout from rightfield.
The bunt attempt only crystallized his struggles and the fans seized on the moment to voice their displeasure at the Mets' four-year, $60 million investment. Granderson heard the boos again when he grounded out with a runner on in the bottom of the ninth, extending his hitless streak to 16 at-bats.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez noticed as well. With one out and a runner at second base in the 14th, Gonzalez ordered the intentional walk of Eric Young Jr. to face Granderson. Reliever Gus Schlosser threw a wild pitch, moving the runners to second and third.
That left Granderson to lift his game-winning sacrifice fly, ending a bizarre marathon at Citi Field.
Manager Terry Collins hoped that a shake-up might jolt the Mets. Before the game, he announced that Jose Valverde would be supplanted as closer by Kyle Farnsworth. He also moved the struggling Granderson out of the cleanup spot in hopes of alleviating some pressure.
"I've told Grandy, listen, you've got to keep plugging away," said Collins, who batted Granderson second, where he's had success in the past. "You've just got to keep plugging away. You've got to keep working at it. This guy works as hard as anybody and he's going to get it going."
Instead of moving Lucas Duda into the cleanup spot, Collins opted for Daniel Murphy, even though he's a far less dangerous power bat. Again, pressure factored into Collins' thinking. The Mets' trade of Ike Davis on Friday left Duda as the team's primary first baseman. But Collins wanted to avoid adding onto the scrutiny that Duda now faces.
"Lucas, right now with what's happened here in the last week, has got enough on his plate," Collins said. "I didn't think I wanted to stir up the pot by throwing him in the four hole right away. He may end up there eventually, but I just thought we'll just leave Dan because he's swinging the bat."
But the changes didn't do much.
The Mets scored three runs with the help of three Braves errors.
Leftfielder B.J. Upton let a routine fly ball glance off his glove in the first. Second baseman Dan Uggla let the ball slip after fielding an ordinary grounder in the second before booting one that was hit right at him in the sixth.
But even with all that help, the Mets found themselves locked in a 3-3 tie.
In the fifth, the Braves scored all three of their runs off Zack Wheeler. Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Freddie Freeman reeled off three straight doubles.
Granderson's throwing error helped to trigger the inning. With a runner on first, Heyward doubled to rightfield. After fielding the ball, Granderson threw so wide of home plate that the ball wound up in the dugout, allowing Braves pitcher David Hale to walk home from third base.
But Wheeler responded with a scoreless sixth inning. Though he allowed six hits and three walks, he allowed only the three runs while striking out six.
The Mets barely avoided giving up the go-ahead run in the 10th. With two outs, centerfielder Chris Young took an awkward route to B.J. Upton's deep drive. The ball one-hopped the fence, and because Young found himself out of position, Upton pulled into third base with a triple.
Collins challenged the call, hoping that the replay would show that Upton's ball hit a railing above the fence, making it a ground-rule double. But video review only confirmed the ruling on the field.
Still, Farnsworth ended the inning by getting Chris Johnson to fly out.
Valverde (1-0) picked up the win for working one inning of scoreless relief, but Daisuke Matsuzaka did the heavy lifting in relief with three scoreless innings.