Rafael Ortega keys a big 6th inning for the Mets, who beat the Braves to avoid last place

NEW YORK — Rafael Ortega had two hits during a six-run fifth inning Sunday night, leading the New York Mets to a 7-6 win over the majors-best Atlanta Braves and preventing New York from falling into last place in the NL East.

The Mets, who were outscored 34-3 in the first three games of the series, moved a half-game ahead of the Washington Nationals. New York hasn’t been in the cellar this late in the season since 2005.

Ortega singled leading off the fifth and hit a two-run single to complete a rally that included four singles and three walks — two with the bases loaded — and a run-scoring catcher’s interference call on the Braves’ Sean Murphy.

Ortega finished with three hits, one shy of his career high. Jeff McNeil had three singles, including a run-scoring hit in the third.

Kodai Senga (9-6) allowed three runs — all in the first via Marcell Ozuna’s bases-clearing double — and whiffed seven in six innings.

Murphy led off the seventh with a homer and Matt Olson pulled the Braves within a run with his major league-leading 43rd homer, a two-run shot, in the eighth. Atlanta leads the majors with 227 homers.

Drew Smith got the final out of the eighth and Adam Ottavino notched his seventh save with a perfect ninth.

Yonny Chirinos (5-5) gave up six runs in 4 2/3 innings.


The Mets made several impressive plays in the field. Shortstop Francisco Lindor ranged well into the hole to snare a grounder by Ozuna before throwing him out with a jump throw in the fourth. Brandon Nimmo, playing left field for the second time in the last two seasons, reached to rob Austin Riley of extra bases in the sixth. Pete Alonso then ended the inning with a diving stop of a grounder by Eddie Rosario.


The loss Sunday was the third in the Braves’ last 17 games against the Mets — a span in which Atlanta has outscored New York 124-61. The Braves lead the NL East by 11 games over Philadelphia.


The Mets’ win ensured both New York teams would not be in last place this late in a full season for the first time. The Yankees are 60-58, two games behind the fourth-place Red Sox in the AL East.


Braves: Murphy was hit by Vientos’ back swing in the seventh inning. He visited with a trainer for a few minutes but stayed in the game. … RHP Kyle Wright (shoulder inflammation), who won a major league-leading 21 games last season but has been limited to five starts this year, has begun ramping up his activity at the club’s spring training complex in Florida.

Mets: Manager Buck Showalter said RF Starling Marte (right groin strain) is “progressing, little by little.” Marte is eligible to come off the injured list Wednesday but is unlikely to return then and may need a rehab stint.


Braves: LHP Max Fried (3-1, 2.50 ERA) takes the mound as Atlanta returns home Monday from a season-long 11-game trip to begin a three-game set against the Yankees. Fried will be making his third start following a nearly three-month stay on the injured list with a forearm strain.

Mets: A 10-game homestand continues Monday when RHP Carlos Carrasco (3-6, 6.42) opens a three-game series against Pittsburgh.


AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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