By PAUL NEWBERRY AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuña Jr. homered and threw out a runner at the plate to back Max Fried’s fifth straight win, leading the Atlanta Braves past the New York Mets 5-3 on a sweltering Tuesday night.
With Atlanta under a heat alert and the temperature at 94 degrees for the first pitch, the Braves cooled down a New York team that had won 15 of its last 17 games to surge into playoff contention.
Acuña sparked a two-run first against Zack Wheeler by leading off with a long single off the wall in right-center, coming around to score his 100th run of the season. In the fourth, the 21-year-old lined a 409-foot drive into the left-field seats for his 34th homer.
But the youngster wasn’t done. Acuña ended the sixth by scooping up a single to left by Juan Lagares and rifling a one-hop throw to the plate to get Todd Frazier trying to score from second, sparking chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” from the crowd at SunTrust Park.
The Mets have lost two in a row for the first time since July 18-19 at San Francisco.
Fried (14-4) went six strong innings, surrendering his lone run in the second after plunking Wheeler with a two-out, two-strike pitch. Jeff McNeil followed with a run-scoring single.
That was it for the Mets against Fried, who threw exactly 100 pitches, surrendering six hits and three walks.
Every Atlanta starter except shortstop Charlie Culberson had at least one hit. Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, Matt Joyce and Ender Inciarte also had RBIs for the Braves.
Wheeler (9-7), who grew up in suburban Atlanta, was pounded for 12 hits and all five Atlanta runs before he was lifted after the fifth.
The Braves’ shaky bullpen, coming off a grim weekend in Miami, protected the lead for Fried even though Shane Greene was charged with two more runs while retiring just one hitter in the eighth. The former Detroit closer has a 14.55 ERA since coming to Atlanta in a trade-deadline deal.
Luke Jackson worked a perfect seventh and Mark Melancon, another trade-deadline acquisition, went 1-2-3 in the ninth for his first save with the Braves and second of the season.
Atlanta maintained a six-game lead over Washington in the NL East, while the Mets dropped nine games back.
Atlanta rookie slugger Austin Riley will not need surgery on his injured right knee and expects to return to the Braves’ lineup in about two weeks. The outfielder went on the 10-day injured list Aug. 5 after spraining his knee during a workout. An MRI showed the ligament was holding up well and Riley should be able to rehab the injury, avoiding what likely would have been season-ending surgery. … The outlook is not as promising for Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, who continues to rehab a bruised right foot that already has kept him out far longer than expected. He went on the IL retroactive to July 24 and still is not sure when he’ll be able to return. “I mean, he hasn’t taken a ground ball in the three weeks he’s been down,” manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s a significant amount of time to miss. Going into this, no one saw this coming.”
Steven Matz (7-7, 4.49) will take the mound for New York in the second game of the series, facing Atlanta’s Dallas Keuchel (3-5, 4.83) in a matchup of left-handers. Matz is coming off a strong outing against the Marlins, surrendering two runs over 6 2/3 innings in a 7-2 victory. Keuchel was roughed up by Miami in his last start, giving up eight runs, 10 hits and three homers in 3 2/3 innings.
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By PAUL NEWBERRY AP Sports Writer