NEW YORK (AP) — Free-agent prize Marcell Ozuna introduced himself to new fans back in Atlanta with a big swing when it counted most.
Just the sort of ingratiation still evading shaky Mets closer Edwin Díaz 1 1/2 years into his stint with New York.
Ozuna hit a tying homer off Díaz with two outs in the ninth inning, Dansby Swanson scored automatic runner Adam Duvall with a leadoff single in the 10th and the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3 on Saturday.
“He’s one of those guys that those situations don’t faze him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Ozuna. “That guy can hit.”
New York loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th with no outs against Luke Jackson (1-0). Pinch-hitter Dominic Smith managed a sacrifice fly, but Jackson recovered and retired Wilson Ramos to end it.
Ozuna, signed to an $18 million, one-year deal in January, energized Atlanta’s struggling offense with his opposite-field drive against Díaz. Ozuna went with a 3-2 fastball just off the outside corner and roped it out to right field for his first home run with the Braves.
“Today is not a day I’m going to lose my confidence over,” Díaz said through a translator, saying he located the 98 mph fastball exactly where he wanted.
Mets reliever Hunter Strickland (0-1) was charged with an unearned run on Swanson’s RBI in Major League Baseball’s second game featuring an unpopular, new extra-innings rule that gives teams a free baserunner on second from the 10th on.
“It’s another one of these changes that we might end up liking,” Snitker said. “Made it interesting.”
Strickland later bobbled a grounder, allowing Swanson to score, and also gave up an RBI double to William Contreras — the first big league hit for the younger brother of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras.
Duvall also homered for Atlanta, drilling a cardboard likeness of Mets All-Star Jeff McNeil’s dog with his solo shot in the second inning. Duvall’s homer was one of two hits against New York starter Steven Matz.
McNeil countered with a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the fifth, but Díaz couldn’t make it stand.
An All-Star with Seattle in 2018, Díaz labored through a brutal 2019 with a 5.59 ERA and seven blown saves. He gave up a whopping 15 homers in 58 innings and lost his job as closer.
“I’m not concerned,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “It’s one outing. We like how Díaz has been throwing the ball.”
Díaz looked sharp in saving Friday’s season opener and was poised to convert saves in consecutive games for the first time since 2018.
Until Ozuna struck.
Just in time for Atlanta, too. The Braves struck out 15 times in 30 at-bats in Friday’s 1-0 loss and had just four hits Saturday before his drive.
“We’ve always been positive and we’re going to be together fighting for every single pitch, every single out,” Ozuna said. “We’re always trying to do damage. Today was a good game to come back and do some damage.”
Braves left-hander Max Fried opened with four hitless innings but stumbled in the fifth. Michael Conforto doubled and scored on Amed Rosario’s triple, and Rosario came home easily on McNeil’s sacrifice fly to deep left field.
Fried was pulled after the fifth. He allowed two runs, two walks and two hits while striking out five.
Matz followed Jacob deGrom’s opening day gem with another strong outing. The left-hander covered six one-run innings with seven strikeouts and one walk.
Braves: The team’s primary catchers, Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud, remained in Atlanta with coronavirus symptoms. Snitker said they are “still not feeling great.” Neither has registered a positive test.
Mets: Reliever Brad Brach rejoined the team and confirmed he tested positive for the coronavirus, causing him to miss preseason camp. Brach and his pregnant wife both had mild COVID-19 symptoms. Jenae Brach gave birth to healthy twin boys, Carson and Brody, on July 17. Neither Brach or Jared Hughes — another Mets reliever who missed camp for undisclosed reasons — has faced live hitters yet, and it’s uncertain when they’ll be game ready. … RHP Michael Wacha will start Monday against the Red Sox. Rojas has not yet named a starter for Tuesday, the fifth turn in the rotation. … LHP Stephen Gonsalves was claimed by Boston off waivers.
RHP Rick Porcello (14-12, 5.52 ERA last season for Boston) is set for his Mets debut Sunday night in the finale of a season-opening series against Atlanta. LHP Sean Newcomb (6-3, 3.16) is up for the Braves in the national TV game.
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