ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves waited a long time to get going.
Finally, at 1:22 a.m., Freddie Freeman gave them a most improbable victory.
Freeman hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning to ruin a brilliant performance by Dillon Gee, leading the Braves past the Mets 2-1 Monday night in a game that was delayed nearly four hours by rain.
Gee (5-7) drove in New York’s lone run and totally shut down the Braves until the end. Justin Upton singled with one out before Freeman launched a towering drive into the right-field seats on a 2-2 pitch to end a game that didn’t start until nearly 11 p.m.
Until then, Gee had allowed only two runners as far as second base.
“It’s nice to wait around that long and get the win,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Our best two at-bats were our last two.”
Freeman had three hits on the night, but what he’ll remember most is the second game-ending homer of his career.
“I knew I hit it good enough,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was going to stay fair, actually, because it was an inside pitch. I didn’t know if I was able to get my hands inside. But once I saw it get up to its highest peak, I knew it was gone.”
For the Mets, it was another bitter blow in a disappointing season, especially coming off a walk-off victory of their own the previous day, when they scored four runs in the ninth for a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
This time, they watched the Braves mob Freeman at home plate in a wild celebration.
“It’s tough,” said Gee, who lost for the first time in five career starts at Turner Field. “That’s a tough loss.”
The right-hander badly fooled Freeman on a changeup with his 100th pitch of the night.
For No. 101, he tried to finish off the slugging first baseman with a slider.
Bad move. Gee was denied his first career shutout on a night when he allowed just five hits.
“He had seen a lot of changeups,” Gee said. “I thought the slider was the right pitch. I just didn’t make a good one.”
David Carpenter (1-0) earned the win with a scoreless ninth. Tim Hudson worked seven innings for the Braves, allowing only Gee’s RBI single with two outs in the seventh.
Rain pushed back the first pitch 3 hours, 43 minutes — the long delay coming at a most inopportune time with the teams facing a day-night doubleheader Tuesday to make up a game that was rained out on May 4.
But at least the Mets got this one in. Not even midway through the season, they’ve already had six games postponed by inclement weather.
The announced crowd of 22,048 appeared to be less than 10,000 by the time the game finally started, and dwindled even more before it ended less than 12 hours before the scheduled start of the doubleheader at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesday.
Gonzalez wasn’t even bothering to go home, saying he planned to spend the night at the ballpark. The Braves lined up hotel rooms nearby for any players who wanted to stay close to Turner Field with such a short turnaround.
Hudson pitched around trouble until the seventh. New York pushed runners into scoring position four times in the first six innings, but Hudson escaped three times with strikeouts, the other time with a double play.
Finally, New York broke through. John Buck led off the seventh with a single and scored from second when Gee grounded a single to left with two outs.
Until the ninth, Atlanta’s only serious scoring threat against Gee came in the second, when Freeman led off with a double into the right-field corner. Evan Gattis grounded out, B.J. Upton flied out and Dan Uggla whiffed to end the inning.
Lucas Duda started at first base and got four hits, after the Mets reversed course on moving him from the outfield to his more natural position. They feared using Duda at first might send the wrong message to former starter Ike Davis, who’s been demoted to Triple-A to try to work out of a massive slump.
Clearly, the move agreed with Duda, who had four hits in a game for the third time in his career. The last came on Sept. 16, 2011, against the Braves in Atlanta.
About 45 minutes after the scheduled first pitch, the rain let up. The crowd cheered when the grounds crew ran on the field to sponge off the tarp and pull it into the outfield, but their hopes of getting started were quickly dashed.
Radar showed another thick line of storms moving in from the west, so Braves officials held off on starting the game. What remained of the sparse crowd had to pass the time by watching coverage of the Philadelphia-Washington game on the big video board in center field. That game ended before this one even started, as did every contest on the East Coast.
After another round of showers, the Braves optimistically announced the game would begin at 10:05 p.m. The tarp was removed, the players warmed up, the lineups were announced, and a choir came out to belatedly sing the national anthem. But the rain picked up again, and the tarp had to be put back on.
Finally, at 10:53 p.m., Hudson threw the first pitch to Juan Lagares.
NOTES: The Braves plan to add RHP Cory Rasmus to their roster as an extra player for Tuesday’s doubleheader. The Mets will boost their roster to 26 players by activating RHP Scott Atchison. … Mets reserve INF Justin Turner was late joining the team in Atlanta after staying behind in New York to get an MRI. He’s had a ribcage problem for several days and might have to go on the disabled list, according to manager Terry Collins. … Alex Wood (0-0) makes his first career start for the Braves in Game 1 of the doubleheader against New York’s Matt Harvey (5-1). Then, in the nightcap, touted Mets prospect Zack Wheeler makes his big league debut against Atlanta’s Paul Maholm (7-5).
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