ATLANTA (AP) - Even when they were down 4-0 to Matt Harvey, the Atlanta Braves felt they had a chance.
They nearly pulled off another comeback.
The Braves knocked out Harvey in a three-run eighth inning, but their rally fizzled as the New York Mets held on for a 4-3 victory Tuesday in the opening game of a doubleheader.
``Matt pitched a great game, but we battled,' Atlanta's Dan Uggla said. ``We just kind of fell short.'
The Braves were helpless against Harvey (6-1) much of the day. He pitched six hitless innings and had a career-high 13 strikeouts. John Buck homered for the Mets.
``It's one of those days where it was jumping out nice and I was hitting spots,' Harvey said. ``Certain days you wake up and you feel good and you can let it go. Today was one of those days.'
Atlanta opened the five-game series against its NL East rival with the team's 21st comeback win of the season, a rain-delayed 2-1 victory that ended at 1:22 a.m. - less than 12 hours before the start of the start of the day-night doubleheader.
Dillon Gee took a 1-0 lead to the ninth, but Freddie Freeman won it for the Braves with a two-run homer. Only Kansas City has more come-from-behind victories than the Braves.
``Even though we were down 4-0, we still felt like we had a chance, especially at home.' Uggla said. ``We've had a lot of magic at home this year.'
Not this time. Rookie Alex Wood (0-1) took the loss in his first career start, lasting just three innings and struggling with his command.
Wood, who had been pitching out of the Atlanta bullpen, was lifted after throwing 73 pitches. He allowed just two hits with three walks and five strikeouts, leaving with the Braves down 1-0. He had problems keeping his glasses on and battled a cut finger on his pitching hand, which affected his control.
``I wish my pitch count was a little lower,' Wood said. ``But it was definitely a good experience.'
The Mets quickly extended their lead against Cory Rasmus in the fourth. Buck led off with his 12th homer of the season into the left-field seats.
New York had scored only 18 runs in Harvey's previous 10 starts while he was in the game. Largely because of that, he had eight no-decisions in a stretch of nine appearances before a hard-luck 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in his last outing, snapping a stretch of 14 consecutive starts without a loss dating to his final appearance of 2012.
Harvey didn't allow a hit until Jason Heyward's fluke infield single leading off the seventh, but the right-hander tired in the eighth and the Braves came to life. Atlanta scored three times and had the bases loaded before Bobby Parnell, the fourth Mets pitcher of the inning, fanned Chris Johnson to end the threat.
Parnell earned his 10th save with a scoreless ninth.
``I'm frustrated because I ran out of gas,' Harvey said. ``I shouldn't have gone out there knowing I was probably pretty much done. I gave them a chance to come back and put our team in a position to lose.
``I'm kicking myself for that.'
The Mets weren't complaining. Harvey surrendered just three hits, though he was charged with all three Atlanta runs.
``He has electric stuff,' Uggla said. ``He was throwing everything for strikes on both sides of the plate. His fastball was anywhere from 95 to 100 (mph). You've got to tip your hat to him.'
The Braves didn't come close to a hit off Harvey through the sixth, their only baserunners on a pair of walks in the third. Finally, Heyward reached safely on perhaps the weakest ball hit off the New York starter all day - a slow dribbler up the first-base line.
Harvey came off the mound to field it and flipped to first base, but there was no one there to catch it. Lucas Duda, making just his second start of the season at first, charged in and left the bag uncovered.
New York padded its lead with two runs in the eighth, just enough to hold off the Braves. In the bottom half, Gerald Laird led off with a walk, Uggla reached on a bad-hop single and Andrelton Simmons knocked out Harvey with Atlanta's first clean hit, a sharp single between shortstop and third base. Jordan Schafer singled off LaTroy Hawkins to bring in two runs, and the Mets made another pitching change with runners at first and third, bringing on towering lefty Scott Rice to face Heyward.
Heyward lined a double off Duda's glove to make it 4-3. After Rice intentionally walked Freeman to fill the bases, Parnell struck out Johnson.
The Braves fanned 16 times in all.
Another young Mets pitcher, touted prospect Zack Wheeler, was scheduled to make his debut in the nightcap as New York showed off what it hopes will be the future cornerstones of its long rebuilding job.
While Wheeler will head back to the minors after the start, he is expected to rejoin the team within days. Meanwhile, Harvey is already one of the NL's most dominant starters in his first full season. He eclipsed his previous career high of 12 strikeouts in a May 7 game against the Chicago White Sox.
The free-swinging Braves looked especially feeble during a stretch that began when Reid Johnson struck out to end the third. Harvey fanned the side in the fourth - Heyward, Freeman and Chris Johnson - before starting the fifth with two more Ks by Laird and Uggla. Simmons finally ended the streak of six straight strikeouts with a groundout.
All six hitters in the stretch went down swinging.
The Mets broke through in the third against Wood after the rookie struck out the first two hitters. Daniel Murphy singled to left and moved to second on a balk. Marlon Byrd hit a grounder to third, where Chris Johnson made a nifty grab on a tricky hop but double-pumped before throwing to first. Byrd beat it out and Murphy never stopped running, coming all the way around to score from second on what ruled an infield hit.
Notes: Quintanilla snapped an 0-for-22 slump with a seventh-inning single off Cory Gearrin. ... Rasmus, who was called up as Atlanta's 26th player for the doubleheader, has given up four homers in three appearances with the Braves. ... Simmons was the only Atlanta starter who didn't strike out.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved