NEW YORK -- At a time of year when small sample sizes tend to cast outsized shadows, two days can make a significant difference. The Braves' bullpen, for example, much-maligned on Opening Day, stood tall Wednesday in a 12-inning, 3-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field.
Four Braves relievers combined to blank the Mets over the game's final five innings, giving Matt Kemp the opportunity to drive home the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded, two-run double off Rafael Montero in the 12th.
In his second inning of relief, Montero allowed a single to leadoff batter Kurt Suzuki, walked Ender Inciarte with one out and intentionally walked Freddie Freeman with two outs to load the bases. That brought up Kemp, who drove home a pair with a sharp double to left.
Braves closer Jim Johnson, who came on to pitch in a tie game in the 11th, also finished off the Mets in the bottom of the 12th to earn the win.
"Those are the types of wins you've got to get, facing guys like [Jacob deGrom], [Matt Harvey] and [Noah Syndergaard]," Kemp said of the Mets' top three starting pitchers. "That's how you've got to get them, wait them out. Most of the time, they're not going to give up many runs. So, you've got to wait them out and try to get those big hits."
The game's first six innings belonged to former Mets teammates Jacob deGrom and 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, the latter making his first start since joining the Braves this winter. In his first outing since elbow surgery, deGrom hit 98 mph on the radar gun, submitting six scoreless innings. Colon proved nearly as crisp, cracking only for a Jay Bruce solo homer in the fifth.
His usual ultra-efficient self, Colon was at only 80 pitches when the Braves removed him for a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh. Though Atlanta tied the game that inning, Jerry Blevins recorded two key outs to prevent the Braves from taking their first lead.
The Mets collected only five hits in 12 innings, striking out a dozen times.
"These guys live on repetition," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "They live on the consistency of coming to the ballpark every day and getting in a routine that they're used to. They've just been disrupted."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bullpen redemption: The Braves were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position before Kemp's third double of the night and fourth of the season proved to be a game-winner. But the outfielder would not have gained this opportunity without the strong work provided by Atlanta's relievers, who retired 17 of 22 batters faced. This is the same bullpen that allowed six seventh-inning runs during Monday's Opening Day loss. Jose Ramirez worked two scoreless innings before Johnson sealed the win with a nearly flawless two-inning appearance.
"It's great to see those guys bounce back like they did; all of them were really good," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Atlanta then loaded the bases on a hit batsman, prompting the Mets to call on Blevins after switch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio was announced as a pinch-hitter. Snitker stuck with Bonifacio, who struck out, instead of going to the right-handed-hitting Tyler Flowers, who struck out against Mets right-hander Addison Reed with two outs in the ninth.
"I'm just trying to play baseball, man. That's really all I'm trying to do. There's 160 games to go, so I try not to get too high or too low about anything."
-- Bruce, on his 3-for-6 start
"I figure at his age and with his 20 years in the big leagues, he can do whatever the [heck] he wants."
-- Snitker, when asked about Colon holding on to the bat as he ran toward first base on a sixth-inning groundout
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Since the start of last season, deGrom has 10 no-decisions in 25 starts. His ERA in those games is just 1.75.
Colon became the oldest Braves pitcher to start a game since a 44-year-old Dennis Martinez made five starts for Atlanta in 1998.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
First-base umpire Will Little initially ruled that Garcia beat Jose Reyes' throw to first for a one-out infield hit in the fifth. But Collins successfully challenged the play, improving to 2-0 on challenges through two games.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves:Jaime Garcia will make his Atlanta debut when these two division rivals conclude this three-game series Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Citi Field. Garcia was acquired from the Cardinals in December.
Mets:Matt Harvey will make his first start since last July when the Mets and Braves meet in Thursday's rubber game. Harvey, who suffered from thoracic outlet syndrome last season, has not pitched since undergoing surgery to remove a rib to ease nerve pressure in his shoulder.