Davies wild as Braves fall to Mets
Atlanta will finish with first losing season in 16 years
ATLANTA -- When their hopes for a 15th consecutive division title were all but erased with a miserable June, the Braves set their sights on potential Wild Card berth. When that became an impossible goal on Sunday, they aimed toward at least ending the season with a .500 record.
Like their previous two goals, this one now has become an impossibility. But this manufactured goal's death doesn't exactly bring the sting the previous two brought.
Another forgettable effort from Kyle Davies at Turner Field on Thursday night assured it. His early control problems, which were possibly a product of plate umpire Joe West's tight strike zone, helped the Mets claim a 7-4 win over the Braves, who now are destined for their first losing season since 1990.
"We've still got a shot to ruin the Astros' season," Jeff Francoeur said. "We're going to play hard. If the Astros beat us, then they deserve to go to the playoffs."
Give Francoeur and the Braves credit. Each time a goal is erased, they've found reasons to continue giving maximum effort. This weekend's three-game series will allow the opportunity to end the postseason hopes of the surging Astros, who beat the Braves in the Division Series each of the past two years.
Based on their comments after they were unable to complete the series sweep of the Mets, the Braves aren't saddened to know West won't be sticking around. After Davies allowed the Mets five runs -- four earned -- and issued a career-high six walks in just 3 1/3 innings, Braves manager Bobby Cox seemed more frustrated with the veteran umpire's work behind the plate.
"[Davies] had a lot of real close pitches, a ton of them, and just didn't recover from them," Cox said of his 22-year-old right-hander, who ended a 3 1/2-month disabled list stint on Sept. 2. "I thought he pitched fine. But you can't have that many walks."
After Davies issued a third-inning leadoff walk to Carlos Delgado, Brian McCann had a civil exchange with West, who promptly issued the soft-spoken catcher his first career ejection.
"I asked him, 'Where did you have that call?'" McCann said. "He said, 'I had it low.' Then he asked me, 'Where did you have it?' I said, 'I had it down the middle.' Before I could even ... I was getting thrown out. There wasn't one cuss word. I wasn't even yelling at him."
Immediately after McCann was tossed, Cox bounced from the dugout and West issued the manager his 125th career ejection, moving him past Leo Durocher and into second place on the all-time list. John McGraw holds the managerial record with 131 career ejections.
"I thought I threw the ball pretty good," Davies said. "I thought that's the best I've thrown the ball since I've been back [from the disabled list]. My velocity was good, and I thought my location was pretty good."
Davies, who threw just 49 of his 93 pitches for strikes, missed the strike zone with eight of his first nine pitches. Before he'd even recorded his first out, Delgado ripped three-run first-inning double. One pitch earlier, the Braves thought the powerful Mets first baseman had looked at strike three.
"I feel bad for Kyle," Francoeur said. "He made some real nice pitches tonight. When you're not getting those calls and then all of a sudden, [the count] goes to 3-2 and you've got to pitch to Carlos Delgado, what are you going to do? That was frustrating."
After allowing consecutive two-out singles that led to a run in the second inning, Davies began the third inning by walking Delgado. Again the young hurler thought he'd snuck a third strike past the Mets first baseman. But instead, he'd issued a walk that only proved consequential, leading to the ejections of Cox and McCann.
"It all boils down to whenever you don't get those calls, you still have to make pitches," said Davies, who exited after issuing two more walks and allowing another Delgado RBI double in the fourth inning.
In the six starts Davies made since recovering from right groin surgery, he was 1-4 with a 13.06 ERA. While his future may not seem as promising as it once did, it appears his psyche is still as strong as ever.
"I think if anything, I've learned more in these six starts than I did in the first six, when I pitched well," Davies said. "Hopefully, it's going to make me a whole lot better. I think it will."
Making his final tune-up before getting his Game 1 start in the Division Series, Mets starter Orlando Hernandez limited the Braves to one unearned run and three hits in five innings. Throwing errors in both the fifth and sixth innings led to the first two runs scored by the Braves.
One of the few noteworthy offensive moments for the Braves came when Andruw Jones began the ninth inning by taking Mets closer Billy Wagner deep with an opposite-field shot. Jones' 41st homer of the season increased his RBI total to 128, matching the career-best mark he set last year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.