Castillo’s error starts rout of Mets
ATLANTA — David Ross racked his brain, trying to recall if he’d ever hit a grand slam.
“Some of the guys were asking me about that,” the Braves catcher said. “I can’t remember one in college, the minors — ever.”
He’s got one now.
Ross’ first career slam capped a seven-run fifth inning made possible by Luis Castillo’s error, and the Atlanta Braves routed the New York Mets 9-2 on Tuesday night.
The Mets scored two runs in the top half of the fifth off rookie Mike Minor (3-0), but the 2-1 lead didn’t last long. Taking advantage of Castillo’s blunder, the Braves knocked out Jonathon Niese (8-7).
Castillo let a likely double-play grounder slip between his legs, and the Braves made New York pay big time. Jason Heyward followed with a two-run double, Alex Gonzalez had an RBI single and Ross — Atlanta’s backup catcher getting one of his occasional starts — cleared the bases by lining his second homer of the season into the left-field seats.
Atlanta has followed last week’s four-game losing streak — its longest skid since April — with four straight wins. the Braves came into the night with a three-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL East.
“It’s a long season,” said Derrek Lee, who reached base four times on three hits and a walk. “I think you’re going to have little blips here and there, but it’s how you respond to them. I think this team shows its character by bouncing right back.”
Nate McLouth sparked the seven-run inning by getting plunked with a pitch as a pinch-hitter. Omar Infante followed with a slow hopper up the middle — perfect for turning two — but Castillo let it skip right between his legs for an error that changed the whole complexion of the game.
Heyward lined a shot to left-center, bringing in two runners who shouldn’t have been on base. Martin Prado followed with a single and Lee walked to load the bases.
Niese struck out Matt Diaz, but Alex Gonzalez singled to right to make it 4-2. Prado also tried to score, but former Brave Jeff Francoeur threw him out at the plate. Prado slid around catcher Henry Blanco, but too wide to touch the plate. Prado had no chance to get back before Blanco tagged him out.
Francoeur, who had his NL-leading 11th outfield assist, was traded after the game to the first-place Texas Rangers, just ahead of the deadline for him to be eligible for postseason play with his new team. “It’s an exciting opportunity for me,” said Francoeur, who in an interesting twist was traded for the second time in his career while visiting his hometown and facing his original team, the Braves.
With the Mets hopelessly out of the race, Francoeur was mentioned frequently in trade talk. “Things happen for the best,” he said. “It’s been a tough couple of weeks for me. It just hasn’t happened for me (with the Mets). People expect different things.”
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