ATLANTA (AP) — The Braves' clutch hitting impressed Mets manager Terry Collins, who said that helps make first-place Atlanta a winner.
The obvious comparison was left unspoken: The Mets, only one-half game out of last place, have too little timely hitting and pitching.
Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up five runs, including three with two outs in the fourth, and New York was shut down by Atlanta's bullpen in a 5-4 loss to the Braves on Tuesday night.
"When they needed a big hit, they got it," Collins said of the Braves.
Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy hit two-run homers for New York. The Mets (37-47) have lost three straight and six of seven to fall 10 games below .500 for the first time this season.
The Braves overcame a shaky start from Mike Minor to protect their one-half game lead over Washington in the NL East. Atlanta has won six straight, its longest streak of the season.
Matsuzaka (3-3) allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings. He has lost three straight starts.
With the game tied 2-2 in the fourth, the Braves staged an improbable three-run inning. Chris Johnson reached on only his eighth walk of the season. With two outs, Johnson scored from second on Minor's single to center — only his second RBI of the season. Following a single and stolen base by B.J. Upton, Andrelton Simmons' two-run single to left off Matsuzaka increased Atlanta's lead to 5-2.
"There's a reason why they're winning," Collins said. "There's a reason why they've won. They do have a knack for it. Those are the kind of players they have over there. They're tough in the clutch, boy, they're very tough."
Matsuzaka said it was disappointing to allow the two-out runs.
"The first two outs came pretty easily but I just wasn't able to finish off that inning with the last out," Matsuzaka said through a translator. "... I was really disappointed in myself for not being able to keep us in the game."
Matsuzaka's spot in the rotation could be in question when right-hander Dillon Gee is ready to come off the disabled list.