Last place was theirs for the first time this season on Sunday, but the Mets finally showed up against their chief NL East tormentor and promptly relinquished it.
The embarrassment stopped, at least for a day.
The Mets received a solid pitching performance from Kodai Senga and in a flashback to last season grinded at-bats in a fruitful sixth inning that sparked a 7-6 victory over the Braves at Citi Field.
In losing the first three games of this series the Mets had been outscored 34-3, but on this night contributions throughout the lineup — No. 9 hitter Rafael Ortega had three hits — added even the smallest semblance of decency to the weekend; the Braves had never swept a four-game series in Queens.
The Mets were a percentage point below the Nationals for last place in the NL East as the night began, but clawed back to fourth.
The team’s mission for the final 44 games of their season might be summed up as such: find rest for the veterans, get experience for the rookies and avoid the NL East cellar.
As much as the final component might not sound important in a lost season, there is a pride factor at stake for these players and this coaching staff.
The same way last season’s Mets are remembered as a 101-win club, this team would like to avoid the embarrassing “last place” tag.
“I’m not going to say that I don’t care about finishing last, I can tell you that,” manager Buck Showalter said before the game.
Senga rebounded from a sluggish first inning and got the Mets through the sixth.
Overall, the right-hander allowed three earned runs on four hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.
It was the third time in four starts Senga pitched at least six innings and allowed three earned runs or fewer.
Marcell Ozuna’s bases-loaded double in the first inning gave the Braves their runs against Senga.
The rally started with Ronald Acuna Jr.’s single leading off the game and steal of second before Ozzie Albies walked.
Matt Olson’s walk loaded the bases for Ozuna, who delivered with a shot to right.
Jeff McNeil’s RBI single in the third pulled the Mets within 3-1 after Ortega singled leading off and Francisco Lindor was hit by a pitch.
In the fifth, Ortega and Brandon Nimmo singled in succession and Lindor’s RBI fielder’s choice pulled the Mets within 3-2.
McNeil’s third single of the game kept the rally alive and Daniel Vogelbach drew a two-out walk to load the bases before Omar Narvaez walked to tie it 3-3.
Collin McHugh entered with two outs in the inning and worked the count full to Mark Vientos before throwing ball four, giving the Mets their third straight walk and another run.
The cascade continued when catcher Sean Murphy was called for interference with DJ Stewart at the plate, giving the Mets a 5-3 lead.
Ortega, the 10th batter to reach the plate in the inning, followed with a two-run single.
Braves right-hander Yonny Chirinos lasted 4 ²/₃ innings and allowed six earned runs on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Senga received defensive help in escaping the sixth unscathed.
Nimmo’s leaping grab on Austin Riley’s drive to left leading off the inning was a gem and Pete Alonso snagged Eddie Rosario’s smoked one-hopper and turned it into the third out.
Murphy homered leading off the seventh against Grant Hartwig to pull the Braves within 7-4.
The blast was Murphy’s 20th this season.
Olson launched a two-run homer in the eighth that sliced the Mets’ lead to 7-6.
Riley doubled against Hartwig to begin the threat and Brooks Raley surrendered the blast to Murphy, who leads MLB with 43 homers.