Niese, Batista struggle in loss to Braves
Rottino, Thole and Baxter pace bats with two hits apiece
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Dan Uggla highlighted a three-hit day by victimizing Miguel Batista with a two-run, fifth-inning home run that gave the Braves a lead they would keep on the way to claiming a 9-4 win over the Mets at Champion Stadium on Friday.
Uggla's leadoff double off Mets starter Jonathon Niese sparked a two-run fourth inning that allowed the Braves to briefly regain the lead they had taken after Michael Bourn and Martin Prado began the bottom of the first inning with consecutive triples.
Prado added a second triple after Bourn doubled off Batista in a two-run sixth inning. Vinny Rottino, Josh Thole and Mike Baxter keyed the Mets' offensive attack with two-hit performances. Rottino drove in a run, Thole scored twice and Baxter drove in two runs.
Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor recovered from some second-inning struggles and seemed to be in command before reaching his pitch limit while issuing a two-out, fifth-inning walk to Lucas May. Anthony Varvaro entered in relief and allowed the Mets to tie the game with a pair of runs. He allowed three singles and issued a walk within a span of four plate appearances.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy walked and scored in the first inning, when Prado dropped Lucas Duda's two-out fly ball after carrying it into foul territory and crashing into the waist-high bullpen wall. This marked the first run surrendered by Minor, who had combined for 14 scoreless innings in his first four exhibition starts.
Niese, who had surrendered runs in just one of his previous three starts, allowed four earned runs and four hits in four innings. The only baserunner he allowed over the second and third innings came courtesy of shortstop Ruben Tejada's inability to field Bourn's sharp ground ball in the third.
Up next: In his last start, right-hander Mike Pelfrey increased his velocity and gave up eight runs on eight hits, walked four and threw a wild pitch against the Astros. Even though that raised his Grapefruit League ERA to 14.90, Pelfrey said afterward he thought he had taken a step forward. He'll try to build on that progress Saturday against the visiting Cardinals at Digital Domain Stadium, beginning at 1:10 p.m ET, in a game that will be broadcast on MLB.TV. Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco, Bobby Parnell and Garrett Olson are also listed as being available to pitch.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.