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Braves fall to Mets, lose ground in NL wild card race

Chipper Jones and the Braves are on the verge of a late-season collapse.

Chipper Jones and the Braves are on the verge of a late-season collapse.

ATLANTA — Jonny Venters says his control problems aren't the result of fatigue.

Venters leads the major leagues with 81 appearances, but the left-hander insists that the first three-walk game of his career is hardly a cause for concern.

"I just didn't throw the ball over the plate today," Venters said after the Atlanta Braves lost to the New York Mets 7-5 Sunday. "No excuses. I just couldn't throw strikes."

Ruben Tejada had four RBIs, Lucas Duda homered off Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning and Atlanta's wild-card bid was slowed by a walk-filled defeat.

Atlanta, which is 3½ games ahead of St. Louis in the NL wild-card standings and four ahead of the San Francisco Giants, lost two of three to the Mets, who arrived with a six-game losing streak. New York went 6-4 at Atlanta this year, its first winning record at Turner Field since 2008.

Tejada put the Mets ahead 4-1 with a three-run double in a four-run fourth. After pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino's bases-loaded walk in the eighth against Venters (6-2) tied it at 5, Tejada singled to put the Mets ahead for good.

Duda's homer was just the second this year off Kimbrel, the NL saves leader.

"I don't know how many times I've faced him, but he's struck me out every time," Duda said. "Luckily, I just connected and it went out of the park."

Tim Byrdak (2-0) won despite allowing a go-ahead single in the seventh to Freddie Freeman, who had been on an 0-for-15 slide. Manny Acosta got four outs for his second save in five chances.

Venters walked three in the eighth for Atlanta, which walked eight overall. The teams combined for 17 walks, but Venters hadn't walked this many since he issued four free passes as a rookie April 28, 2010 at St. Louis.

"If you can't throw strikes, you don't deserve to win," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "We are where we are because of our bullpen. They've won more games for us than they've lost us."

Jones' RBI double put the Braves ahead in the third, but Brandon Beachy walked pitcher Dillon Gee with the bases loaded in the fourth and Tejada followed with a three-run double.

The walk to Gee hurt Beachy's pride, a low point in his second shortest start this season and. He lasted just two innings May 13 against Philadelphia.

"I didn't enjoy that," he said. "That's just something that can't happen. Trying to nibble too much. That's never a good idea."

Atlanta, which left 15 runners on base, tied it in the bottom half on Alex Gonzalez's solo homer, Michael Bourn's run-scoring single and Dan Uggla's RBI groundout.

A rookie making his first career appearance against New York, Beachy allowed five runs, five hits and four walks in 4 1-3 innings with eight strikeouts. Gee gave up four runs, eight hits and five walks in 4 1-3 innings. His ERA has climbed to 4.48 from 3.05 on June 10.

Sunday marked the first time this season that Kimbrel and Venters have allowed a run in the same game.

Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team begins a three-game series Monday at Florida, isn't concerned about Venters.

"You give him the ball the next time you're in that situation," he said. "He'll be fine. Nobody's going to roll over for us."

Venters, a first-time All-Star this season, knows he must step up.

"It's September," he said. "It's time to dig down deep. I cost my team the win. Just go out tomorrow and try to get it done."

NOTES: Beachy has 160 strikeouts this season, setting a post-1900 franchise mark for a rookie that surpasses the 157 that Irv Young fanned for the 1905 Boston Beaneaters. ... RF Jason Heyward threw out Justin Turner at the plate when he tried to score on Tejada's go-ahead single. ... Gonzalez wanted to give Freeman the day off, but the rookie entered during a double switch in the fifth. ... Atlanta RHP Tommy Hanson, sidelined with right shoulder tendinitis, will pitch two or three innings — a maximum of 35 pitches — Monday in the Instructional League. ... Braves RHP Jair Jurrjens, out with a right knee strain, is scheduled to throw off a mound Monday in Miami before Atlanta plays the Marlins. ... Atlanta RHP Kris Medlen, who's missed the season to recover from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, threw batting practice Sunday and is to throw off a mound Wednesday and Thursday in the Instructional League.

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