ATLANTA -- Just as things were starting to look up for the Mets -- remember Tuesday's banner day? -- something else went wrong. So credit the Mets for finding a way to win regardless on Thursday, leaning on David Wright's two home runs to rebound from Jon Niese's shoulder injury in a 4-3 win over the Braves.
"It was a great week," manager Terry Collins said of the Mets' five-game series victory. "We came in here and played very well against a very, very good team. We got big hits when we needed them. Of course David stepped up tonight to get us going a little bit. It was a great series for us. We played very, very well."
Niese left the game in the fourth inning with what the Mets termed left shoulder discomfort, leaving the bullpen in charge of cobbling together 17 outs. They did so with aplomb; David Aardsma, LaTroy Hawkins, Brandon Lyon, Josh Edgin and Bobby Parnell combined to throw 5 2/3 shutout innings of relief.
Early on, the Mets' offense hinged exclusively upon Wright, who bashed solo homers off Mike Minor in the first and third innings. Andrew Brown then hit a game-tying, pinch-hit home run in the fifth before pinch-hitter Josh Satin put the Mets ahead with an RBI double to chase Minor two innings later.
Entering the game with an 8-2 record and 2.68 ERA, Minor allowed four runs over six innings to take the loss. That sent the Braves to their first series defeat at Turner Field this season.
"The home runs were just bad pitches," Minor said. "Hanging curveball, a fastball over the middle of the plate, and then a first-pitch hanging slider. So I give the credit to those guys. They were bad pitches, and they took them out of the yard."
Though Niese was not particularly sharp in the innings leading up to his injury, his issues revolved largely around a less-than-stellar defense. Despite Daniel Murphy's fine play on a ball up the middle in the first, Tyler Pastornicky reached base when Lucas Duda could not handle Murphy's throw in the dirt. Pastornicky later came around to score on Justin Upton's single.
Niese allowed two more runs on four hits in the third, including RBI singles by Chris Johnson and Gerald Laird. He completed that inning, struck out the first batter of the fourth, then departed in the middle of Pastornicky's next at-bat.
"I tried to pitch through it, but every pitch after that, I felt some pain," Niese said. "So I just stopped."
Sitting in the bullpen, Mets relievers understood that if they wanted to win, they would need to make a profound impact on the game. So Aardsma took the baton and passed it to Hawkins, who handed it to Lyon in the eighth.
The Braves did not rally until that point, putting runners on the corners with two outs to send Lyon to the dugout. But after running a 3-0 count on Jason Heyward, Edgin induced a groundout to end the threat. Parnell then pitched a clean ninth for his 11th save in 14 chances, receiving help from Murphy's jump-throw on a Freddie Freeman bouncer up the middle.
"We knew we had our work ahead of us with [Niese] going down in the fifth like he did," Parnell said. "We wanted to pick him up, pick up the team and be there for the team. The bullpen did that today."
"That's what we're there for," added Edgin.
It allowed the Mets to transform a daunting five-game series in Atlanta into an uplifting victory. Despite Niese's injury, the Mets could leave Turner Field relatively happy, knowing they had just ripped three wins away from a first-place team.
Three more divisional games await this weekend in Philadelphia, before the Mets finish their 11-game road trip in Chicago and Denver.
Even if Niese does not participate, the Mets will head into that stretch with a measure of confidence.
"We knew we had to play pretty well to come in here and win this series, and we did that," Wright said. "We've had our struggles here in Atlanta, but to come in and kick off with that doubleheader sweep, and then be able to win the rubber match today -- these close games come down to bullpen, defense and timely hitting, and we got all three of those. It's a good feeling to come in here and take this series against this team."