NEW YORK (AP) — Craig Kimbrel hardly ever needs help with the ninth inning. He got some Saturday night.
Jordan Walden nailed down the final out with the bases loaded after Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez pulled his star closer following a shaky performance in a 7-5 win over the New York Mets.
Sidelined recently by shoulder discomfort, Kimbrel threw 24 pitches during his first outing in a week. The Braves didn't want him to go any longer, and Gonzalez thought the reliever was rusty.
"The good thing is that we got him on the mound and got him pitching and we'll go from there," Gonzalez said, adding that Kimbrel was pain-free. "He was fine. He was good. That's a good, positive sign."
Freddie Freeman had three hits and hustled his way through a weird play that brought the Braves two runs when the Mets were unable to challenge a costly incorrect call.
Ervin Santana pitched seven crisp innings for his second win over New York in three starts with Atlanta.
Justin Upton hit a three-run homer in the ninth to make it 7-3, and that became crucial when the Mets rallied against Kimbrel.
They scored twice off the hard-throwing right-hander, who loaded the bases with a two-out walk to Lucas Duda. That's when Gonzalez went to the mound and lifted Kimbrel, who wasn't happy about it.
"That's what makes him good," Gonzalez said. "At that point of the game he don't care about his arm, he don't care about anything, but he wants to finish that inning."
Kimbrel waited an extra moment or two before reluctantly handing over the ball.
"I'm a competitor and anytime you get taken out, obviously you get upset about it and I did," said Kimbrel, who apologized to Gonzalez after the game. "That's disrespectful to him, to the team and it's just not the type of person I am and I felt awful about it."
Walden retired Travis d'Arnaud on a grounder to secure his first save of the season and Atlanta's seventh victory in eight games. Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons was shaded toward the hole and made a strong throw to get d'Arnaud.
"I was ready. I'm always ready," Walden said.
Santana (2-0) allowed one run and struck out seven, giving the Braves their latest outstanding start. Despite several significant injuries in spring training, Atlanta's rotation entered with a 1.47 ERA — best in the majors by nearly a full run.