The Mets continued slouching toward the playoffs Wednesday night as Freddie Freeman came off the bench to drive in five runs, including a three-run, ninth-inning home run off closer Jeurys Familia to give Atlanta a 6-3 victory at Citi Field.
The loss completed a 3-6 homestand for the Mets, who have lost six of their past eight games. It might be time to panic except that the Nationals lost for the second night in a row to reduce the Mets' magic number for clinching the NL East to five and maintain their lead at 6 ½ games.
"That's nice," David Wright said of the Nationals' loss. "It's good when your magic number shrinks. But we'd like to play better and have it shrink because we're winning."
The game began as a tour de force for Mets starter Bartolo Colon, who retired the first 14 Braves he faced before giving up an infield single to Jace Peterson in the fifth inning. The Mets had staked Colon to a 2-0 lead on a solo home run by Daniel Murphy and an RBI single by Ruben Tejada.
But Freeman, who was not expected to play, was inserted as a pinch hitter in the seventh and capped a three-run rally with a two-run double for a 3-2 lead. Wright tied it at 3 with a run-scoring single in the bottom of the seventh.
But Familia gave up a one-out infield single and then walked a batter in the ninth before Freeman sent a fastball soaring into the leftfield seats for the 6-3 lead.
"He made good contact," Familia understated. "I was feeling great. I just had a bad day."
It marked the first losing homestand of the season for the Mets, but at least manager Terry Collins still had his sense of humor.
"I heard before the game that Freeman's wrist was bothering him. I didn't think he was going to play. I'm going to have to fire that scout."
Wright exchanged barbs with Freeman as he rounded third base but later said it was all in fun.
"Freddie has been a thorn in our side," Wright said. "I wasn't expecting to see him. He came in and single-handedly beat us. I didn't want to look at him [on the homer]. I was already disgusted."
Colon was the model of efficiency, throwing 75 pitches through 61/3 innings before leaving to a standing ovation from much of the crowd of 28,931. But after giving up just two hits in the first six innings, Colon yielded three singles in the seventh, leaving the bases loaded for reliever Addison Reed.
Michael Bourn drove in the Braves' first run with a single before Freeman's first big hit.
"Colon was tremendous up until the seventh," Collins said. "He was outstanding."
Rather than dwell on the poor homestand, Collins and Wright chose to look forward to a seven-game road trip that begins Thursday night in Cincinnati and then moves to Philadelphia, both of which are considered hitters' parks.
"We're looking at a situation where we've played real well on the road," Collins said. "Let's see if we can finish it off."
Wright faulted the Mets for not taking full advantage of all the scoring opportunities they had.
"We had chances to tack on runs and let them off the hook," Wright said. "We're not giving our pitchers much room for error."
Fortunately for the Mets, that Nationals are giving them room for error.