Mets drop series opener to Braves

Mets drop series opener to Braves

ATLANTA -- When the Mets won six of nine games at Turner Field last season, their successes constituted a considerable achievement -- or so it seemed. Now there is increasing evidence that the achievement was merely an aberration, and that Turner still is, as Mike Piazza characterized it nine summers ago, "Death Valley for us."

The Mets have lost six games away from Shea Stadium this season, and three of those six losses, including one on Tuesday night, have come in their four games at Turner Field. Two of the losses in April were quite vexing, one decided by a run, the other by the Mets' flawed defense. The one they endured on Tuesday night was more consistent with those suffered in the late '90s. They were steamrolled.

The Braves hung an 8-1 pasting on them, beating up on Jorge Sosa and putting on a 10-hit "Ted Offensive" that reduced the Mets' lead over the second-place Braves to 1 1/2 games. The Mets' 57th loss in 84 games here came replete with the indignities -- including a four-pitch walk to and a three-run home run by winning pitcher Kyle Davies. And just to make it feel like '98 again, Chipper Jones drove in a run.

The memory of the Mets' 2006 successes is too fresh for these Mets to have the same sense of Turner Field that Piazza put into words in September '98. Just the same, their unsuccessful play here is disquieting.

"It may have something to do with the team that plays here," David Wright said.

"We've had trouble here for the same reason we win in Arizona," Tom Glavine said, acknowledging he knows no particulars. It was left to a sage greater than even Glavine to explain the possibilities.

"Our guys haven't been here long enough, and we've had some success here," manager Willie Randolph said, "so you can't say it's psychological ... I actually think it's more about them than us.

"They play us hard here, they play us hard, period. And I think it maybe had to do with coming up through the organization and developing a disdain for us. I know their kids weren't here for a lot of what went on, but they know about the Braves beating the Mets and going up against New York. They have a feeling about us. They feel confident against us. It comes from their energy.

"And we have to match their energy and their disdain. They're out to get us. We've got to feel that."

The Braves' mindset -- if they are, in fact, "out to get the Mets" -- showed itself early. Davies extricated himself from peril in the first inning, retiring Carlos Delgado on a double play ground ball with two runners on base to defuse a threat.

"He seem to get runners in scoring position against him, but then he makes a pitch he has to make," Randolph said.

The Mets' offense was quiet for the next three innings. By the time it stirred, the Braves had scored five runs against Sosa, as many runs in four innings as he had allowed in 20 innings in his first three starts, all victories.

Sosa seemingly reverted to the form he demonstrated as a Braves starter last season. The Braves scored twice in the second and twice in the third. Scott Thorman hit a mammoth bases-empty home run beyond right field in the fifth.

Sosa acknowledged he lacked the command of his slider that made him so effective against the Diamondbacks, Brewers and Cubs. Catcher Paul Lo Duca suggested he had thrown sliders with unusual velocity, diminishing its movement.

"It's a [batting practice] fastball when you do that," Lo Duca said. And judging by his own experience, Lo Duca suggested facing the his former team may have prompted Sosa to throw harder -- too hard.

"I know when I went back to play in L.A. after they traded me," Lo Duca said, "I had no clue ... no chance."

Whatever the reason, Sosa was more the pitcher who had a 1-8 record and 5.53 ERA in 13 starts with the Braves last season than he was the pitcher who entered the game with a 2.25 ERA. The Braves had six hits -- four for extra bases -- against him. The four innings were a season-low for him.

At the same time, the Mets' offense was straitjacketed by Davies who was responsible for one of the Mets' three victories here last season. Davies (2-2) gained his fourth career victory against the Mets, pitching eight innings. He allowed six hits and two walks. Randolph recalled Davies' past successes against the Mets.

"It seems like he's 8-1 against us," he said.

Davies never was seriously threatened after the first, except for the fifth when the Mets scored on a forceout, one play after a questionable call at second base denied what would have been a bases loaded, no-outs situation. Shawn Green was on second and Lo Duca was on first when Damion Easley hit a ground ball to the right of shortstop Edgar Renteria. The throw to second was wide, forcing Kelly Johnson to reach toward the center-field side. Johnson appeared to drop the throw. Umpire Mark Carlson ruled Johnson lost control as he reached into his glove.

Said Lo Duca: "He reach with one hand. There was no hand he was reaching into his glove with."

Said Randolph: "It would have been nice to have the bases loaded, but he [Davies] pitched well enough to beat us."

Davies also walked and scored in the third and hit his three-run home run in the sixth against Aaron Sele for the final runs. It was his game, and certainly not the Mets'. It seldom is here.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.