ATLANTA — In the tug-of-war over whether Seth Lugo will better serve the Mets in the rotation or bullpen, a night like Tuesday could serve as a frame of reference.
Paul Sewald was summoned in the sixth inning with the bases loaded in a game the Mets trailed by one run. The struggling right-hander proceeded to allow a grand slam to Ozzie Albies, and the Mets were effectively sunk in an 8-2 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park.
Lugo is needed in the rotation for now, but there has been internal debate within the organization over whether the right-hander should start or work from the bullpen once Noah Syndergaard returns from the disabled list.
Though general manager Sandy Alderson has indicated he leans toward wanting Lugo in the rotation, other team officials have joined the debate on the side of letting Lugo impact two or three games a week instead of just one.
Sewald is not part of the bullpen solution at the moment. He entered with a 6.58 ERA over his previous 13 ²/₃ innings pitched and was charged for two runs over two innings against the Braves.
The Mets, who lost for the ninth time in 10 games, managed only three hits on a night manager Mickey Callaway was ejected for the first time.
After Zack Wheeler couldn’t get the final out in the sixth, Sewald entered with the bases loaded and watched Albies crush a 1-1 pitch into the right-field seats, giving the Braves a 7-2 lead.
Wheeler (2-5) was charged with six earned runs on eight hits and four walks over 5 ²/₃ innings.
Ender Inciarte’s second bloop RBI single of the game against Wheeler had put the Mets in a 3-2 hole earlier in the inning. Mets killer Freddie Freeman homered leading off the inning to tie it before the Braves won a replay challenge on a double-play call. Tyler Flowers was ruled safe at first base on the play, but then got thrown out by Jay Bruce trying to reach third on Johan Camargo’s single. Camargo reached second on the throw and scored on Inciarte’s bloop single.
Bruce’s two-run double in the sixth gave the Mets a 2-1 lead in a strange inning that included the Mets loading the bases without a hit and Callaway getting ejected. After Brandon Nimmo was hit on the right elbow and not awarded first base — Nimmo appeared to lean into the pitch — Callaway arrived at home plate and was ejected by umpire Stu Scheurwater for arguing the call.
Nimmo walked and Asdrubal Cabrera reached on Dansby Swanson’s error before Bruce launched a shot into the left-center gap that bounced into the seats for a double. But the Mets missed a chance to extend that lead when Devin Mesoraco hit a grounder near third base that Camargo snagged before tagging Cabrera and throwing to first, completing the double play.
Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz was a challenge for the Mets, allowing only two hits over five shutout innings. But Foltynewicz left the game with triceps tightness at 73 pitches.
Inciarte’s first bloop RBI single gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the fourth, but the damage could have been worse for Wheeler, who had loaded the bases with nobody out. But the Mets received a break when Camargo hit a comebacker that started a rare 1-2-5 double play to give Wheeler breathing room.
The Mets received consecutive singles from Mesoraco and Dominic Smith to threaten in the fifth, but Amed Rosario and Wheeler were retired in succession to keep the Braves’ lead at 1-0.
Foltynewicz had retired 13 straight batters after drilling Michael Conforto leading off the game.
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