NEW YORK -- For a few moments, Lucas Duda appeared to step right out of "The Natural."
Duda, New York's notably reticent first baseman, spent the early portion of Friday afternoon talking with the media about how his role will change in the wake of the Ike Davis trade. A few hours later, with tension gripping the entire ballpark, Duda had a couple of chances to give the Mets a dramatic win.
New York, which had trailed since the third inning, had rallied for three hits in the eighth before Duda lifted a towering fly that looked like it might be a three-run, lead-changing homer until it fell just fell short on the right-field warning track. Duda represented the winning run when he returned to the plate with two outs in the ninth. He drew a walk to load the bases, but the Braves used a Travis d'Arnaud groundout to shortstop to seal a 7-5 win.
"I thought it was a home run," said manager Terry Collins of Duda's fly. "If nothing tells you how tough it is to hit home runs, that ball does. Obviously, there's a wind blowing in from right field a little bit, but I thought he hit that ball good."
The Mets and Braves both scored four runs between the eighth and ninth innings to set up the late-game drama. Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel gave up three hits and two earned runs in the ninth in a rare off-night at the office, and right-hander Jordan Walden got the last out for his first save of the season.
Three Mets -- Chris Young, Daniel Murphy and David Wright -- had three hits apiece in the loss, but the game came close to turning on Duda's bat. The first baseman doubled in the second inning and was thrown out at the plate on a fielder's choice, and he drew a walk in the ninth to chase Kimbrel from the game.
"There were some good at-bats tonight," said Collins of his team's effort.
New York notched just one hit in the series opener, but it started its offense early on Saturday. Leadoff man Eric Young Jr. singled, stole second base and moved to third on a fly ball, and moments later scored easily when Wright singled through a drawn-in left side of the Atlanta infield.
The momentum turned on a key play with two outs and two men on base in the Braves' third. Veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon had thrown two scoreless innings, and he got Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman to top a harmless swinging bunt to the third-base side of the pitcher's mound.
That ball may have hit Freeman's right foot, which would have made it foul, but the umpires didn't make that call. Colon came off the mound to field the ball and threw wildly to first base, allowing two Atlanta runners to score. The Braves (12-5) never trailed after that play, but the Mets had plenty of chances to tie things up.
"I thought it was a foul ball, so that's why I didn't run as quickly to grab it," said Colon of the key play via an interpreter after the game. "I was waiting for the umpire to say that it was a foul ball."
Collins, in an interesting twist, said that he would've liked to use instant replay on the call, except for one troubling fact: The umpires said that the play, in this case, wasn't reviewable.
"You can't challenge it," Collins said. "From where I was, I couldn't see it, but the guys were telling me the ball hit him. Foul ball. I went to the mound and said, 'OK, what did you see?' ... They said they thought the ball fouled off his foot, so I went to ask [the umpires]. Nobody saw it. You can't challenge it."
Colon (1-3) stranded two runners in the third inning and two runners in the fifth, allowing the Mets to hang in against Atlanta starter Ervin Santana. New York (8-9) had just six hits in the first seven innings, but it came back against the Atlanta bullpen.
Rookie catcher d'Arnaud made it a one-run game with an RBI single in the eighth inning, but Justin Upton lengthened the lead in the ninth with a monstrous three-run homer off closer Jose Valverde. d'Arnaud came up again in the ninth, but shortstop Andrelton Simmons robbed him of another run-scoring hit on the last play of the game.
d'Arnaud also had a close-up view of the ball that may or may not have hit Freeman's foot.
"I was really sure that it hit his foot," said d'Arnaud. "He pulled it and then it drastically changed directions to the left. That's what I saw."
Valverde has given up runs in three straight appearances, and the Mets may already be considering a change in the ninth inning. Collins said after the game that he prefers not to make decisions like that in the heat of the moment but indicated it may be a discussion for Sunday.
Cleanup man Curtis Granderson has continued to struggle for the Mets and is batting .140 through his first 16 games, and Collins said it may be time to switch him into a less pressure-packed spot of the lineup. One thing Collins knows for sure: The Mets need to get Granderson on track soon.
"He had such a good spring. He hit the ball very well," said Collins. "I've been told he can swing and miss, but I also know that when he gets red hot, he can carry a club. We've got to get him red hot."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.