By JAKE SEINER
NEW YORK (AP) — With Jacob deGrom and the Mets hard-throwing bullpen missing bats at a historic pace, the NL East-leading Braves were ready to win with small ball Friday night.
That’s exactly what Billy Hamilton is there for — although this first contribution wasn’t exactly on script.
Hamilton singled home the go-ahead run in the 14th inning for his first hit as a Brave, and Atlanta beat the Mets 2-1 for its sixth straight win despite yet another sensational two-way effort by deGrom.
“Might be one of the best feelings of my life except for my first stolen base in the major leagues,” Hamilton said. “I mean this might be the top.”
The Mets tied a major league record by striking out 26 batters, including 13 by deGrom , and 21-year-old Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. became the second-youngest player with a 30-homer, 30-steal season — only Mike Trout did it younger.
Yet the game came down to Hamilton, who delivered to snap New York’s five-game winning streak.
The seventh-year major leaguer was claimed by Atlanta off waivers from Kansas City last week to be a pinch-running specialist down the stretch. The speedster did just that in the 10th, replacing a runner at first and stealing a base, but he was left stranded.
Four innings later, his grounder against Jeurys Familia (4-2) was just out of reach for diving second baseman Joe Panik, allowing Tyler Flowers to score from third. The hit came in Hamilton’s fourth plate appearance since changing teams, and the 28-year-old looked back into Atlanta’s dugout after reaching first and saw a booming celebration.
“If you’re going to be out here all night, might as well get a win,” said Hamilton, who added his second steal of the game a few pitches later. He has 297 career stolen bases but is just a .242 hitter, having spent most of his career on lousy teams in Cincinnati and Kansas City.
DeGrom homered and struck out eight straight batters during one dominant stretch, pitching seven innings of one-run ball. He finished a punchout shy of his career high — the righty whiffed 14 and also homered to beat Miami on April 3. DeGrom became the first pitcher since at least 1900 to strike out 13 and homer in a game twice in the same season, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
“Every time out, my God, that guy has got something really special in his back pocket,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner got a no-decision anyway, the 18th time in his career he’s pitched one-run ball or better over seven innings and not gotten a victory. New York is just 7-5 this year when deGrom allows one or fewer earned runs.
The Mets’ previous high for strikeouts as a staff was 24, achieved June 2, 2018, against the Cubs during a 14-inning game — deGrom also struck out 13 in that one.
New York remained two games behind the Cubs for the second NL wild card after Chicago lost to the Nationals 9-3. Atlanta has won nine of 12 against the Mets this season.
Flowers had appeared to score the go-ahead run two batters before Hamilton’s knock when he came home from first on Adeiny Hechavarría’s drive to right-center. The ball got lodged in the door to the visiting bullpen, though, and after a video review, umpires ruled it a ground-rule double and held Flowers at third.
DeGrom’s eight straight strikeouts marked the best such streak in the majors this year and tied his career high. He went over 200 strikeouts in a season for the fourth time.
“That little run, I just felt like I was able to locate whatever pitch I was throwing at the time,” he said.
DeGrom added his second homer this season and third of his career leading off the sixth. Mets pitchers lead the majors with six homers.
Freeman hit an RBI single in the sixth, and Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz pitched two-hit ball over seven innings, allowing a run and striking out seven.
Atlanta’s bullpen covered eight scoreless innings, including two by Luke Jackson (7-2). Mark Melancon delivered a 1-2-3 14th to close out the 4 hour, 37-minute game for his fifth save.
“It’s frustrating,” Mets outfielder Michael Conforto said. “We had lots of opportunities, lots of extra inning opportunities, but also throughout the regulation nine innings. We didn’t have it today at the plate like we have in the past.”
Acuña took second in the eighth inning for his 30th stolen base, giving him the fifth 30-30 season in franchise history and first since Ron Gant in 1990 and ’91. Acuña also has 36 homers.
Braves: SS Dansby Swanson (right foot contusion) felt good after his first rehab game with Class A Rome on Thursday. He was back at shortstop Friday night for seven innings and went 1 for 3. … 3B/OF Austin Riley (right knee sprain) was the DH for Rome in his first rehab game and went 0 for 4. … OF Nick Markakis (broken left wrist) was upgraded from a full cast to a removable one and did some running in the outfield before the game. … RHP Darren O’Day (right forearm strain) began a rehab assignment in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two.
Mets: All-Star Jeff McNeil (strained left hamstring) played third base and right field for Class A Brooklyn, going 1 for 4 in a rehab appearance. Manager Mickey Callaway left open the possibility that McNeil would rejoin New York on Saturday. … C Tomas Nido was visited by a trainer after being slammed in the back of the head by Donaldson’s backswing while trying to throw out a stealing runner in the sixth. Nido stayed in but was replaced the next inning by Wilson Ramos. Nido was being evaluated after the game.
Braves LHP Max Fried (14-4, 3.84) will honor late Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs with his Players’ Weekend uniform, which reads “Love You Ty.” Fried and Skaggs both grew up in Southern California. RHP Zack Wheeler (9-7, 4.40) is slated to start for New York.
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