NEW YORK — The Blair Pitch Project started to show results for the Atlanta Braves.
Using a revised windup developed during a brief trip to the minor leagues, Aaron Blair won for the first time in 13 major league starts and helped the Braves slow the New York Mets’ wild-card chase with a 7-3 victory Monday night.
Acquired from Arizona along with Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte in December’s trade that sent Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks, Blair had been 0-6 with an 8.23 ERA in his first 12 big league starts, including 0-2 in three outings against the Mets.
“It’s frustrating giving up runs and going out, not getting a win for your team, but tonight was good,” Blair said.
Freddie Freeman, getting little sleep after bringing his newborn son home from a hospital late Sunday, drove in three runs off a misfiring Noah Syndergaard. Freeman had four hits for the Braves, who have the worst record in the National League, and Swanson had three hits and three RBIs.
Blair, a 24-year-old right-hander selected 36th overall in the 2013 amateur draft, went on the disabled list after an Aug. 28 loss because of a strained left knee, then worked on his mechanics during two injury rehabilitation starts in the minors. Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell wanted him to cut down on the turn in his rotation, to reach out farther with his pitching arm and to stay more upright.
“Obviously, giving up a run per inning wasn’t great, so I was up for any changes,” Blair said.
Activated to start against the Mets, Blair (1-6) did not allow a hit until the fourth, when Curtis Granderson singled and T.J. Rivera hit a two-run homer.
Blair gave up six hits in six innings, struck out four and walked one, lowering his ERA to 7.71.
“All the hard work that he’s put in and making changes and sticking to it, not reverting back in stressful situations, it’s nice to see him rewarded for it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He got a good downhill plane going, I thought, and obviously some of those changeups they were swinging over had some late action.”
Blair was given the ball from the final out and received more than 50 text messages of congratulations.
“I was able to make pitches when I needed to, and if they hit the ball, they just hit it right at guys,” he said. “So some of the line drives I was on the luckier side.”
Syndergaard (13-9) allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings, and Atlanta fouled off 26 of his 99 pitches. He started to falter in a 35-pitch second that included consecutive walks and RBI singles by Swanson and Inciarte, the first on a 99.9 mph fastball and the second on a slider.
Freeman led off the third with an opposite-field homer to left, extending his streaks for hits to 23 games and for reaching base to 39. Freeman then reached down to slice an opposite-field, two-run double in the fourth for a 5-0 lead.
Freeman could barely keep his eyes open afterward.
“I got nothing left. I left it all out there,” he said. “I can hardly think right now.”
OH SO CLOSE
Rio Ruiz, a 22-year-old Braves third base prospect, had been announced as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning Sunday in his major league debut when Washington changed pitchers, rain started to fall and the tarp was brought out. The game, which had been interrupted for 1 hour, 7 minutes in the sixth, was called after a 1:50 wait. His parents, who changed their flight to stay after the first rain delay, did not make the trip to New York and headed back to Los Angeles.
“There’s nothing frustrating about being here in the majors leagues,” he said. “I’m still all smiling.”
RHP Ryan Weber will start for the Braves in Wednesday’s series finale, his second start this season and the seventh of his big league career.
Braves LF Matt Kemp, a two-time Gold Glove winner, ran in for diving catches in the seventh on Michael Conforto and Alejandro De Aza.
Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz, hit on the left calf by Marcell Ozuna’s liner on Sept. 12, is playing catch and walking on a treadmill. Snitker said he could return this season.
Julio Teheran (5-10) is to start Tuesday for the Braves and RHP Robert Gsellman (2-1) for the Mets, Teheran is 1-0 with a 0.78 ERA against New York in three starts this year.