ATLANTA -- The Mets' chance of avoiding a losing season may be slim to none. But at least the team is getting an opportunity to play spoiler, and doing a pretty good job of it, too.
"It's fun to play when the games mean something," said manager Terry Collins. "They are already talking about the Cardinals."
The Mets head to St. Louis after winning a weekend series against the Braves, who are just four games ahead of the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card race.
The Braves' strength this season has been their bullpen, anchored by Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel. But on Sunday, each gave up a run in the same game for the first time all season.
The Mets got two runs with two outs in the eighth off Venters, one on a bases-loaded walk. Then Lucas Duda hit a home run off Kimbrel in the ninth for insurance in a 7-5 victory that sent a Turner Field crowd of 39,862 home unhappy.
"Like everyone, they are going to have an off-day," Collins said of the Braves' All-Star relievers.
It just hadn't happened like this before.
Venters walked pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino to force in the tying run and Ruben Tejada drove in the lead run with a single, giving him a four-RBI game. The Mets had just two hits in the inning, but drew three walks.
"With his sinker, I knew I had to be extra selective," Paulino said. "He is hard to hit. Lucky for us, he didn't have his control today."
Tejada didn't wait around long before dropping a tie-breaking bloop single into right field.
"You know he's got to throw a strike," Collins said. "[Tejada] didn't hit it hard, but he hit it in the right place."
"I just wasn't throwing the ball over the plate today," Venters said. "When I did, it was up in the zone and out over the plate. I just didn't make any pitches when I had to. We scratched and clawed. For us to have a lead in the eighth and not get it done, there's no excuses. I blew that game. I just couldn't throw strikes."
After the Braves left two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets got an insurance run on Duda's long homer to center field off Kimbrel, who had allowed just one long ball all year.
"I think I'd struck out every time I'd faced him," said Duda, who has 10 homers on the season. "I just tried to shorten up and make contact. I didn't know how far it went. I didn't watch. But it felt good."
Manny Acosta, a former Braves reliever, got the final out in the eighth, then pitched around a hit and a walk in the ninth for his second save.
"I felt good to get an opportunity," Acosta said. "It's great to take the series. Now we get to go to St. Louis and have some fun there."
The Braves took the lead in the seventh. Miguel Batista gave up a double to Alex Gonzalez with one out and Freddie Freeman -- who was riding an 0-for-15 slump -- drove him in with a two-out single against Tim Byrdak.
Dillon Gee, who still leads National League rookies with 12 victories, couldn't hold a 4-1 lead and lasted just 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs while allowing eight hits. He walked five (two intentionally) and struck out four. Of his 93 pitches, almost as many were balls (45) as strikes (48).
"I think I pitched better than the results," Gee said.
Rushed up from Triple-A Buffalo when Chris Young had to go on the disabled list, Gee beat the Braves on April 17 to start a seven-game winning streak. But he is 5-6 since then and his ERA has risen to 4.48.
The Mets benefitted from a bases-loaded walk to Gee and a bases-clearing double by Tejada in the fourth to pull ahead. But the Braves scored three times in the bottom of the inning to tie the game.
Braves starter Brandon Beachy, like Gee, didn't make it through the fifth inning. The right-hander worked 4 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on five hits and five walks (one intentional). Beachy struck out eight to raise his season total to an Atlanta rookie-record 160 in 136 innings.
There were 17 walks in the game, nine issued by the Mets. But the Braves left 15 runners on base and walked in two runs.
Now it's off to St. Louis for the Mets, with three more meaningful games ahead beginning Tuesday.
For the trip, the team's veteran players gave cheerleader outfits for the younger group to wear.
"You can't say no," said catcher Josh Thole.
He was smiling. So were the rest of the Mets. After suffering through a 1-8 homestand, the road has brought good times again.
Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.