Francisco Alvarez’s clutch hit sends Mets past Braves 5-3 for DH split

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Francisco alvarez Mets
New York Mets’ Francisco Alvarez hits a two-run double during the sixth inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field, Monday, May 1, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK (AP) — Francisco Álvarez hit a go-ahead, two-run double in the sixth inning and the New York Mets beat Atlanta 5-3 to split a doubleheader Monday after Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. exited the nightcap early with a bruised shoulder.

Sean Murphy had a pair of three-run homers in the opener and Acuña launched a 448-foot home run into the rarely reached third deck at Citi Field, powering the Braves to a 9-8 victory after the teams were rained out the previous two days.

The win was just the second in eight games for the Mets, who snapped a six-game losing streak to their NL East rivals. The Braves won their fifth straight division title last year after sweeping New York on the final weekend of the regular season.

“They’re a good team,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “We know they’re going to be there all year.”

Daniel Vogelbach hit an RBI double in the nightcap and Starling Marte had a run-scoring single to stake the Mets to a 2-0 lead. Drew Smith (2-1) tossed 1 1/3 hitless innings in relief of Tylor Megill, who carried a shutout into the sixth before giving up a three-run double to Eddie Rosario.

Vogelbach and Mark Canha drew one-out walks from Charlie Morton (3-3) in the bottom half before Álvarez, who is hitting .212 with 18 strikeouts in his first 52 big league at-bats, doubled to left field off Michael Tonkin.

“It feels really good because I was able to put the team ahead there,” Álvarez said through an interpreter. “And it motivates me to keep on trying to do the same and working to do the same.”

Jeff McNeil homered leading off the eighth to provide an insurance run for the Mets, who nearly overcame deficits of 6-1 and 9-5 in the opener thanks to a three-run homer by Pete Alonso and solo shots by Brett Baty and pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar.

David Robertson worked two scoreless innings in the nightcap for his sixth save — the fourth six-out save of his career.

“You want them to feel good about what they put into today,” Showalter said. “You hate to see those guys leave here and not get back something for what they put into today.”

David Robertson Mets
New York Mets relief pitcher David Robertson, right, celebrates with catcher Francisco Alvarez after Alvarez made the final out during the ninth inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field, Monday, May 1, 2023, in New York (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Acuña, who finished a triple shy of the cycle in the first game, was drilled by a 93 mph 0-2 fastball from Tylor Megill leading off the nightcap. The 25-year-old superstar sat on the ground for a while holding his shoulder in obvious pain while receiving attention from an athletic trainer. He walked back to the dugout and was replaced by pinch-runner Kevin Pillar.

Initial X-rays were negative, but Acuña was undergoing more testing at a hospital before joining the Braves for their trip to Miami.

“We’ll know more when he gets back here,” manager Brian Snitker said.

Murphy, whose six RBIs in the first game tied a career-high, singled in his first two at-bats in the nightcap before factoring into the sixth-inning rally against Megill. Murphy walked with two outs and slid in just under Álvarez’s tag with the go-ahead run on Rosario’s bases-loaded double to right-center.

Pillar had a two-run shot in the first game and Spencer Strider (4-0) earned the win after allowing four runs in five innings. He retired the final nine batters he faced after the first five Mets reached in the third.

Strider struck out eight — snapping his team-record streak of nine straight starts with at least nine strikeouts. He fell two games short of the major league mark held by Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

A.J. Minter gave up Escobar’s solo homer with two outs in the ninth before retiring Baty on a line drive to right field for his sixth save.

“That first one, man, we expended a lot of energy,” Snitker said. “I’m just glad we won it, because that would have been a really tough loss. That was great, the way the guys stepped up and finished that one off.”

Mets opener Denyi Reyes (0-1) gave up five runs in one-plus inning and was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse between games. It was his second big league start and first for New York.