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Mets lose Walker early, fall to Braves for 2nd-straight loss

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Matt Olson Braves Mets
Atlanta Braves’ Matt Olson gestures as he runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning of the team’s baseball game against the New York Mets on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves are right back on the Mets’ tail.

Less than two weeks ago, the World Series champions endured a miserable series against the team they’ve been chasing in the NL East pretty much all summer.

They haven’t lost since.

Charlie Morton was dominant on the mound, Matt Olson and Robbie Grossman went deep, and the Braves made it eight in a row with a 5-0 blanking of the division-leading New York Mets on Tuesday night.

The last time these teams met in Queens, it was the Mets winning four of five. In Atlanta, the Braves have won the first two games of a four-game set by a combined margin of 18-1, closing the gap on New York to 3.5 games.

“You’re going to have series that don’t go your way,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. Just fight through it.”

Morton (6-5) surrendered three hits and a walk in 6 2/3 innings, posting his fourth double-figure strikeout game of the season with 12 Ks. His curveball was especially effective, which is why he threw it on nearly half of his 97 pitches.

“Holy cow, that was vintage Charlie right there,” Snitker said. “His breaking ball was something else.”

It was quite a contrast to the Mets’ starting situation.

For the second night in a row, their pitcher was lifted after two innings because of an injury. This time, it was 10-game winner Taijuan Walker making the early exit because of back spasms.

Walker said his back tightened up after he covered first to get the final out of the second. He’s not sure if he’ll be able to make his next start.

“I tried to bend over. When I tried to come back up, it just locked up on me,” Walker said. “I’ve never had anything like this before. The training staff is not too concerned about it. So I’ll get an MRI tomorrow and kind of see how I feel.”

The previous night, Carlos Carrasco went out with a strained left oblique. A 13-game winner, he was placed on the injured list before the game and is expected to miss up to a month.

R.J. Alvarez (0-1), who was called up from Triple-A Syracuse before the game, took over for Walker and surrendered a 413-foot homer to Grossman, the second batter he faced. The blast into the right-field seats was Grossman’s first homer for the Braves since being acquired from Detroit ahead of the trade deadline.

Alvarez served up an even deeper homer to Olson in the fourth, a two-run shot for his 25th of the season.

Right fielder Starling Marte didn’t even budge as the 443-foot drive sailed far over his head — a no-doubter as soon as it left the bat.

Olson added a run-scoring single in the seventh to finish with three RBIs on the night.

Alvarez worked 2.1 innings, giving up four hits, three runs, and three walks. At least he managed to stay on the mound longer than either of New York’s last two starting pitchers.

Dylan Lee took over for Morton in the seventh and struck out Jeff McNeil with two runners aboard to end New York’s biggest threat.