NEW YORK (AP) — The most comforting sight for New York Mets pitchers is Juan Lagares galloping around the outfield.
Lagares hit a two-run homer and ran down one ball after another in center, sending Dillon Gee and the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
Gee stopped the longest losing streak of his career at five games, outpitching Alex Wood in the opener of a three-game series. Lagares, one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, scurried from gap to gap and finished with seven putouts.
"That's Lagares, man," Gee said. "We expect that from him now. Unbelievable center fielder. Makes great plays. ... I'd be hard-pressed to find anybody better. He's unbelievable. He's fun to watch."
One of Lagares' grabs was spectacular — he robbed Wood of a base hit with a diving, tumbling grab in shallow center to end the third inning. Lagares also began the game by running a long way to track down consecutive fly balls, and he made all three putouts in the sixth.
"I'll tell you what: Everybody's impressed — I'm not. I've been playing with him since '09. I know what he can do," New York infielder Wilmer Flores said. "Any pitcher would want him in center field."
With the Mets minus ailing David Wright and Daniel Murphy, it was Lagares who carried the load on this night. So he was asked if he was happier about his performance at the plate or in the field?
"I think I liked both," Lagares said with a grin.
Right in the thick of a crowded NL wild-card race, the Braves have totaled only five runs while dropping three straight after a 7-1 stretch.
Streaking slugger Justin Upton went 3 for 3 with an RBI double and a walk.
"He's really swinging the bat really well. We've got to get some people on in front of him," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Backed by three double plays, a clean-shaven Gee (5-6) gave up two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. He entered 0-5 with a 5.71 ERA in seven starts since beating the Braves 4-1 on July 9 in his first outing after nearly two months on the disabled list with a strained right lat.
New York turned four double plays in all.
"It just killed us, really," Gonzalez said.
Gee was lifted after Tommy La Stella's run-scoring single made it 3-2. Jeurys Familia got four outs, and Jenrry Mejia pitched a one-hit ninth for his 19th save in 22 tries.