NEW YORK — Starting from the first batter he faced tonight, New York Mets starter David Peterson found himself in hot water immediately — and did so right before having to confront the best hitter in the National League. A few moments later, his arm allowed him to avoid that sticky situation to cause any further damage, a theme throughout his high-wire act of a performance that helped the Mets stay in touch in the postseason picture.
Peterson struck out a career-high 10 hitters, a number of those coming with Atlanta’s heart of the order up and with runners on base, while Robinson Canó drove in three runs as New York defeated Atlanta 7-2 at Citi Field on Saturday, a day after suffering an embarrassing 14-2 defeat.
Not expected to be a major contributor to the pitching staff in 2020 at the start of the season before injuries and inconsistency set in, Peterson finds himself in the role of the team’s stopper, and his outing against the division-leaving Braves reinforced how much of a godsend he has been to the Mets as he earned his team-leading fifth win on the campaign.
“Since the beginning of the season, when he came in, he’s been throwing the ball like that,” said Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “He gets into tough situations and gets into a groove and gets some swings-and-misses. I think he’s poised, along with his stuff, and that’s allowed him to get out of tough situations early in his career.”
Those situations could not have been any more fraught with trouble than tonight, where Peterson, to start the game, walked Ronald Acuña Jr. before facing Freddie Freeman, who came into tonight sporting a .359 batting average and an OPS over 1.100. However, Peterson mixed his fastball and slider perfectly in striking out Freeman, and put himself in an even better position to work out of trouble by picking off Acuña at first base immediately after his punchout of Freeman.
Peterson struck out Freeman all three times he faced the four-time All-Star, including in the third inning with one out and Acuña on first and in the fifth to end the inning after allowing a lead-off double by Austin Riley.
“He’s a great hitter and a tough out, so tonight, it was mixing things up,” Peterson said. “Fastball, slider, left-on-left changeup. It takes everything to get that guy out. It was great to have success tonight.”
After the Mets scored twice in the first on two-run a single by Canó, Peterson found himself in the fire again after a leadoff walk to Travis d’Arnaud and an Adam Duvall double put runners on second and third. From there, Peterson was masterful in getting Ozzie Albies pop out on the infield before striking out Dansby Swanson and Riley to end the threat and come away unscathed.
“Personally, I thought that was the biggest inning for me,” Peterson said. “I got into a jam and I had my work cut out for me. That was one of the biggest times tonight where I had to bear down and get to work. Obviously to get the pop up from Albies and the two K’s was what was needed.”
Clinging to a 3-2 lead, New York scored four runs in the eighth to create breathing space. Dominic Smith and Canó hit back-to-back homers before Brandon Nimmo completed the big inning with a two-run single.
A solo home run by Duvall in the sixth, Atlanta’s first run of the game, was the only blemish on Peterson’s line. Another solo shot, by Duvall off Mets reliever Jeurys Familia, cut New York’s lead to 3-2 before the Mets responded in the bottom half of the inning.