Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22) makes a diving catch as left fielder Reid Johnson reacts during the 9th inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. (Photo: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports)
NEW YORK -- Jason Heyward is probably right when he says people don't remember game-saving defensive plays as much as they do game-winning hits.
But he doesn't have to worry about the Atlanta Braves forgetting or failing to appreciate what he did to save Monday night's win.
With two outs and two New York Mets runners on in the ninth inning, Heyward -- who missed the previous six games with a hamstring injury and was making only his fifth career start in center field -- made a diving catch in the rain that robbed Justin Turner of what very likely would have been a game-winning hit for the Mets. Instead he preserved a 2-1 win for the Braves at Citi Field.
"More people probably remember the guy that got the hit to win a game than a guy that made a catch," Heyward said. "Unless it's a World Series-winner or a playoff clincher, then nobody's going to remember the catch."
Heyward's catch merely ended a two-game losing streak for the Braves (56-43) and extended their NL East lead to seven games over the Phillies.
"He's a helluva athlete and he has that Rawlings Gold Glove for some reason," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He covers right field like a center fielder and he made a helluva play to save the game. It was a helluva play regardless, but to end the game that way? It was great."
Heyward, a Gold Glove right fielder who is playing center field because B.J. Upton is on the disabled list, was shaded toward right field when Turner crushed a 95 mph offering from closer Craig Kimbrel, who had plunked John Buck with a one-out pitch and issued a two-out walk to Omar Quintanilla.
Quintanilla and pinch-runner Andrew Brown were running at full speed as Heyward glided more than a dozen steps before he dove and caught the ball inches from the ground. He held the glove aloft as he slid across the wet field and then bounced up and pumped his arms.
Reed Johnson, who had the game-winning hit as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth before he entered as the left fielder, was backing up Heyward and jumped and covered his head with his hands as he made the catch.
"I think that's the highest I've jumped in six or seven years," Johnson said. "I said I was gonna cry either way, whether he caught it or not. Happy tears (are) a good thing."
Kimbrel, who recorded his 28th save, held his arms out and said "Oh my God."
The Braves were still marveling at the catch in the locker room.
As he spoke to reporters in his office, Gonzalez kept glancing up at the television in hopes of seeing a replay. A few minutes later, Brian McCann leaned against a couch in the locker room and waited for a replay to be shown.
As Heyward -- sporting a big ice pack on his hamstring -- walked in, McCann grinned and said "That was (expletive) sweet!"
"It was fun for me," Heyward said. "I know (teammates) appreciate it. I take lot of pride in my work out there in the outfield and I always want to come up big in any spot, whether it be offensively or defensively. But right there, there's no better way to do it."
Heyward's catch capped a wild win for the Braves, who were no-hit through six innings by Mets starter Dillon Gee and had just three hits before mounting a three-hit, two-run rally off Mets closer Bobby Parnell (5-5) in the ninth.
McCann led off with a single and pinch runner Jose Constanza went to second on Evan Gattis' single. Constanza was forced at third on Dan Uggla's fielder's choice grounder, but Gattis and Uggla advanced a base on a passed ball charged to Buck.
Chris Johnson's grounder to short scored Gattis. Johnson, pinch-hitting for winning pitcher Jordan Walden (4-1), hit a 1-1 pitch to center to score Uggla.
"Those are the kind of games you hang around, hang around - we've got a pretty good offense, you've got to tip your cap to Gee," Gonzalez said. "We capitalized there in the ninth inning."
The Braves' late comeback spared Julio Teheran the hard-luck loss. Teheran gave up one run on four hits and two walks while striking out six over six innings.
Gee's no-hitter was broken up by Freddie Freeman's leadoff single in the seventh. Gee battled out of a bases-loaded jam later in the inning to remain in line for the win. He allowed two hits and three walks while striking out three.
"He pitched a great game -- tremendous game," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We didn't get much, but you've got to credit (the Braves)."
Ike Davis had an RBI single in the fourth for the Mets (43-52).
NOTES: The Braves placed LHP Paul Maholm on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sunday, with a left wrist contusion. Maholm originally suffered the injury in his start against the Marlins on July 10 and aggravated it Saturday against the White Sox. Gonzalez said he hopes Maholm will be back when first eligible. LHP Alex Wood will start in Maholm's spot Thursday against the Mets. ... Heyward hadn't played since hurting his hamstring on July 11. He started in center field for the third time this year and the first time since May 31 against the Nationals. ... Prior to the game, the Mets activated Turner from the 15-day DL and optioned RHP Greg Burke to Triple-A Las Vegas. ... The Mets won't decide whether they will use a spot starter on Thursday or Friday until RHP Zack Wheeler throws his bullpen session Tuesday. Wheeler is scheduled to pitch Thursday, but if he needs to be pushed back a day, the Mets would add a starter -- likely activating RHP Jenrry Mejia from the DL -- and start Wheeler and RHP Matt Harvey in Friday's doubleheader at Washington. If Wheeler pitches Thursday, the spot starter would pitch Friday.