NEW YORK — Right in the middle of a pennant race, the New York Mets were robbed.
In an electrifying finish to a pressure-packed game for the Mets, center fielder Ender Inciarte took away a three-run homer from Yoenis Cespedes for the final out of Atlanta’s 4-3 victory Wednesday night.
“Tremendous catch,” New York manager Terry Collins said. “One of the best you’ll ever see.”
With two runners on in the bottom of the ninth inning, Cespedes made a bid for a game-winning homer by launching a drive to deep right-center. Inciarte raced a long way to the wall and timed his jump perfectly, catching the ball just above the orange line atop the fence.
“Probably the best catch I’ve ever made,” Inciarte said. “I thought that ball was gone right (off) the bat. But it was the last play of the game. I was just giving everything I’ve got.”
And with that, the Mets were handed another damaging defeat by the last-place Braves after squandering a three-run lead.
Rather than regaining sole possession of the NL wild-card lead, New York remained tied with San Francisco and St. Louis for the league’s final two playoff spots. The Giants lost to the Dodgers, and the Cardinals were routed in Colorado.
At his locker, a disappointed Cespedes would answer only one question from reporters.
“I knew I hit the ball well,” he said through a translator. “I knew there was a good chance it was going to make it out, but he made a better play.”
Once he landed, Inciarte held up his glove in excitement and then kissed the ball as he jogged toward the infield to greet teammates. Cespedes turned and walked slowly off the field.
“Guys were flying over the railing,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. “It just erupted. I don’t think you could have won the World Series and had a bigger explosion than that right there.”
Some fans in the stunned crowd of 32,187 at Citi Field still had their hands on their heads as they filed up the aisles toward the exits.
“I still can’t wrap my mind around that, how he did that. Just incredible,” Braves slugger Freddie Freeman said.
Bartolo Colon and Jeurys Familia failed to protect a 3-0 lead for the Mets. An error by normally sure-handed first baseman James Loney helped Atlanta tie the game with an unearned run in the eighth.
Inciarte had an RBI groundout against Familia (3-4) in the ninth, sending the feisty Braves to their fifth straight victory. They completed their second consecutive three-game sweep at Citi Field, including one in June.
Ian Krol (2-0) struck out pinch-hitter Kevin Plawecki with the bases loaded to end the eighth — moments after Cespedes nearly put New York ahead. His high fly to deep left field was knocked down by a leaping Matt Kemp at the top of the fence, with the ball glancing off Kemp’s glove and dropping to the ground for a double.
Cespedes thought he had a go-ahead homer. He tossed his bat aside and started to trot before digging for second when the ball stayed in play.
Jim Johnson got three outs for his 17th save.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Rene Rivera homered to help the Mets build their 3-0 lead. Colon carried a three-hit shutout into the seventh before ex-Met Anthony Recker started Atlanta’s comeback with a two-run homer.
Seeking a five-out save from his All-Star closer, Collins turned to Familia with two runners on. But the Braves surprised New York with a double steal on Familia’s second pitch, and Kemp made it 3-all with a sacrifice fly.
Freeman extended his hitting streak to a career-best 25 games and has reached base safely in 41 straight for Atlanta.
Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz threw about 25 fastballs in a bullpen session and said he felt normal. As long as that continues, he plans to mix in all his pitches during a longer bullpen Friday and hopes to make at least one more start this season. Foltynewicz has been sidelined since getting hit on the left calf by a line drive Sept. 12.
Mets: Rookie LHP Steven Matz (shoulder) threw a bullpen and is tentatively scheduled to start Friday night against Philadelphia, assuming he feels fine Thursday. Matz would likely be limited to around 50-60 pitches, with rookie RHP Gabriel Ynoa lined up to follow. Matz has not pitched since Aug. 14. … INF Wilmer Flores (right wrist) remained out of the lineup and is not expected to play Thursday night against Philadelphia. Flores has been sidelined since Sept. 10, when he was injured in a home-plate collision at Atlanta. He’s received two injections, the second one on Monday, but still was unable to swing a bat Wednesday, according to Collins. … RHP Jacob deGrom had season-ending surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve in his right elbow and is expected to be ready for spring training next year, the team said.
Braves: RHP Josh Collmenter (2-0, 4.61 ERA) starts Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at Miami.
Mets: Rookie RHP Seth Lugo (4-2, 2.35) gets the ball Thursday night when New York begins its final home series of the regular season with the first of four games against Philadelphia.