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Sunday, May 16, 2010
Series preview: Mets at Braves

By Adam Rubin

METS (18-20, fifth place/NL East) at BRAVES (18-19, fourth place/NL East)

Monday: RHP Mike Pelfrey (4-1, 3.14) vs. RHP Derek Lowe (5-3, 5.73), 7:10 p.m. ET

Tuesday: LHP Johan Santana (3-2, 3.88) vs. RHP Kris Medlen (1-1, 2.45), 7:10 p.m. ET

Braves short hops:

Kris Medlen moved from a relief role to the rotation when Jair Jurrjens landed on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. In his lone start this season, the 24-year-old Medlen allowed one run on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings at Philadelphia on May 8. Jurrjens, who had a 2.60 ERA last season, was 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA this year. He dealt with shoulder inflammation during spring training. … Second baseman Martin Prado is 6-for-14 in three games since being reassigned to the leadoff spot. He had four hits Sunday, raising his average to .323. Before the switch, Braves leadoff hitters -- including Nate McLouth for 12 starts and Melky Cabrera -- had combined to hit .158 this season. … Prado’s move to the top spot coincided with top prospect Jason Heyward moving to second in the order. Heyward went 0-for-4 but had two walks Sunday in a 13-1 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks behind eight strong innings from Tim Hudson. Entering that game, Heyward was hitting .412 with four homers and 12 RBIs in a 12-game stretch. Heyward is the reigning National League Rookie of the Month. He led all rookies with six homers and 19 RBIs in April. Heyward is one of four Braves rookies to debut this season. The others: infielder Brandon Hicks, right-hander Craig Kimbrel and left-hander Jonny Venters. … The right hip injury third baseman Chipper Jones suffered at Citi Field contributed to a 2-for-27 rut, which has left his average at .224 for the season. Jones also missed a couple of games last week with a sore groin. He and retiring manager Bobby Cox moved into second on the all-time list of games for a player/skipper combo on May 7. Jones played his 2,191st game for Cox that day, passing the Lou Whitaker/Sparky Anderson combo with the Detroit Tigers. No. 1 on the list: Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke at the turn of the 20th century with Louisville and Pittsburgh (2,591 games). Jones’ 428 homers rank 39th all time, one ahead of Mike Piazza’s 427. Cal Ripken is next at 431. … First baseman Troy Glaus is 27-for-73 with 17 RBIs and 14 walks in his last 21 games. He has eight multi-hit games in his last 14. Glaus, converted to first base this season after signing with Atlanta, had played 26 straight error-free games before picking up one Friday. … Outfielder Matt Diaz needs surgery on his right thumb for an infection that has troubled him since the end of last season. The loss of Diaz will increase Eric Hinske’s left-field usage. Hinske’s last six starts have come at that position. Brent Clevlen was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday to serve as an outfield backup. Clevlen played at Triple-A Toledo in Detroit’s system last season. … Shortstop Yunel Escobar (.209) was activated from the disabled list Saturday, with fellow shortstop Brandon Hicks demoted to Gwinnett. Escobar had suffered a strained groin April 29. … Reliever Jo-Jo Reyes was activated from the disabled list Sunday and was optioned to Gwinnett. Reyes allowed nine earned runs April 12 at San Diego in his lone appearance before landing on the DL with right knee inflammation. Reyes will work as a starter in the minors. … Ex-Met Billy Wagner announced his intention to retire at season’s end. His 389 saves are sixth all time. Dennis Eckersley ranks fifth with 390. Wagner is second among left-handers, trailing only John Franco’s 424 saves. … Despite a 5-3 record, Derek Lowe has only two quality starts in eight outings. … The ex-Yankee Cabrera, who is hitting .193, had an 0-for-16 skid in early April. … Backup catcher David Ross ended Washington Nationals left-hander Scott Olsen’s no-hit bid on May 6 with an eighth-inning single. … Since halting a nine-game losing streak on April 30, the Braves are 10-5. … Braves right-handed reliever Peter Moylan appeared in 87 games last season, one shy of Pedro Feliciano for the major league lead. Moylan did not allow a homer in 2009 -- the most games in major league history without allowing a homer in a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He has yet to allow a long ball in 14 innings this season, either. The last big leaguer to go deep: Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman on March 30, 2008.

Matchups

Pelfrey vs. Braves (career: 3-5, 5.58 ERA)
Brian McCann .464, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 28 AB
Martin Prado .417, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 12 AB
Melky Cabrera .333, 9 AB
Matt Diaz .333, 6 AB
Chipper Jones .300, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, 20 AB
Troy Glaus .250, 1 RBI, 8 AB
Nate McLouth .182, 1 RBI, 11 AB
Omar Infante .167, 1 RBI, 6 AB
Jason Heyward .000, 2 AB
David Ross .000, 1 AB

Santana vs. Braves (career: 1-5, 2.21 ERA)
Matt Diaz .522, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 23 AB
Troy Glaus .333, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 24 AB
Martin Prado .300, 10 AB
Chipper Jones .294, 1 RBI, 17 AB
Brian McCann .273, 2 HR, 2 RBIs, 22 AB
Melky Cabrera .200, 10 AB
Nate McLouth .154, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 13 AB
Omar Infante .111, 3 RBIs, 27 AB
Eric Hinske .000, 5 AB
David Ross .000, 3 AB

Lowe vs. Mets (career: 3-3, 7.61 ERA)
Rod Barajas .500, 6 AB
David Wright .438, 3 RBIs, 16 AB
Luis Castillo .364, 4 RBIs, 22 AB
Jose Reyes .250, 1 RBI, 4 AB
Fernando Tatis .222, 2 RBIs, 9 AB
Jeff Francoeur .217, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 23 AB
Gary Matthews Jr. .176, 1 RBI, 17 AB
Alex Cora .143, 7 AB
Angel Pagan .111, 2 RBIs, 9 AB
Jason Bay .000, 1 RBI, 13 AB 

Medlen vs. Mets (career: 0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Jeff Francoeur 1.000, 2 AB
Jason Bay 1.000, 1 AB
Luis Castillo .000, 3 AB
David Wright .000, 2 AB
Angel Pagan .000, 1 AB
Jose Reyes .000, 1 AB
Fernando Tatis .000, 1 AB

Last series results:

Mets won 3-0 at Citi Field, April 23-25 (AP game recaps)

Mets 5, Braves 2: Ike Davis put his head down and briskly ran around the bases after hitting his first major league home run. Angel Pagan's path home, well, that was strictly heads-up. Davis launched a 450-foot shot to win a matchup of prize rookies and the New York Mets added a crazy run on Chipper Jones' error. Emergency reliever Hisanori Takahashi excelled after John Maine left with an odd injury and Jose Reyes neatly produced from his new slot in the batting order. Yet it was the seventh-inning weirdness that made things really wild. The Mets led 3-2 and had runners on first and second with one out when Reyes lifted a high popup into the wind. The infield-fly rule was called, meaning Reyes was automatically out and the runners could advance at their own risk. Almost every time, they stay put. Jones cut in front of shortstop Omar Infante and the ball glanced off the glove of the All-Star third baseman near the mound. The ball caromed to catcher Brian McCann, who saw Reyes standing at first base even though Reyes was out, players often lose track of tricky rules. Holding the ball, a confused McCann started to walk down the first base line. "Mac thought the play was dead," Jones said. Just to be sure, McCann flipped the ball to first baseman Eric Hinske, who tagged the bag and Reyes. Trying to cover all bases, so to speak. While the Braves fiddled, Pagan alertly kept running and made a headfirst dive home to beat Hinske's return throw to Jones. David Wright followed with an RBI single for a 5-2 lead. Nate McLouth nearly tied it in the ninth, but his bid for a tying, three-run homer off Francisco Rodriguez barely hooked foul. Davis delivered a monster drive, making it 1-all in the fifth inning by homering far beyond the right-center field wall. His dad, former Yankees reliever Ron Davis, was in the crowd to see it, and the Mets retrieved the souvenir ball for him. Atlanta rookie Jason Heyward went 0-for-4 and struck out three times, including once with the bases loaded. Normally a Mets nemesis, Jones hit an early RBI single a day before his 38th birthday. But he let a foul pop drop in the sixth for an error, then made that even bigger mistake in the seventh. Takahashi (1-1) took over after Maine, a right-hander, left with two outs in the fourth with pain and a muscle spasm in his left elbow. The 35-year-old rookie from Japan struck out seven in three innings and earned his first major league win. He also singled in his first big league at-bat. Mets manager Rodriguez held on for his second save. Reyes was moved into the third spot in the batting order for the first time and responded by hustling for a double and streaking for a triple. Reyes and Jason Bay hit back-to-back triples to the same deep part of right-center field in the sixth against Kenshin Kawakami (0-3). Wright followed with a sacrifice fly that made it 3-1.

Mets 3, Braves 1: Jason Bay hit a tying double in the sixth inning, Jeff Francoeur doubled in the go-ahead run with a drive off the 415-foot sign in the seventh and the Mets finally got to Jair Jurrjens. New York (9-9) took advantage of brain-locked baserunning by Yunel Escobar. It was a costly loss for the Braves. Playing on his 38th birthday, Chipper Jones injured his right hip on his first swing. He took a pair of called third strikes and was removed after 2 1/2 innings. The Braves ran themselves out of an inning in the fifth. With runners on second and third and one out, Troy Glaus lined to Francoeur in the gap in right-center. Escobar failed to tag up at third and Martin Prado, who had replaced Jones, tagged up at second. Whoops! Not thinking he would have a play at the plate, Francoeur threw to third. Prado got trapped in a rundown and was tagged out quickly, failing to give Escobar time to score. Given where the ball was hit, Braves manager Bobby Cox couldn't understand what Escobar was or wasn't thinking. Mets shortstop Jose Reyes also appeared to lose track of the outs, throwing home in an attempt for Escobar which would have been the fourth out. Escobar wouldn't discuss the game, throwing his jersey and pants into his locker. With the score 1-1 in the seventh, Jurrjens (0-2) walked hot-hitting rookie Ike Davis leading off and Francoeur sent the next pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark in right-center. He took third on the futile throw home and scored on Henry Blanco's sacrifice fly. Manny Acosta (1-0) won in relief of a wild Jon Niese, Acosta's first major league win since beating the Mets for Atlanta last July 16. Reyes made a leaping backhand catch of pinch-hitter Brian McCann's liner to end the eighth with two on, and Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his third save in four chances. Niese walked five in laboring through 5 1/3 innings in 116 pitches but allowing just five hits. Atlanta loaded the bases in the first on David Wright's error at third and two walks. With one out, Niese struck out Matt Diaz and threw a called third strike past Melky Cabrera. Jurrjens entered 6-1 against the Mets, including 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA in five starts last year. Given a 1-0 lead on Ross' RBI single in the sixth, he gave it right back in the bottom half on a four-pitch walk to Reyes followed by Bay's run-scoring, one-hop double to the center-field wall. Jurrjens allowed three runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings.

Mets 1, Braves 0: Following a 2009 season filled with decimating injuries and painful losses, the New York Mets are beginning to get some breaks. The latest one came courtesy of the Atlanta Braves and Mother Nature. Mike Pelfrey pitched out of constant trouble to extend his scoreless streak to 24 innings and New York finished a three-game sweep of the slumping Braves in a game cut short by rain. Wrangling with a wet field, hobbled third baseman Chipper Jones made a first-inning throwing error that allowed Jose Reyes to score. Play was stopped after one pitch in the sixth when rain intensified, and the game was called by umpires following a 98-minute delay. That left Atlanta with its fifth straight defeat and made a hard-luck loser of Tommy Hanson (1-2), in his first career complete game. Boosted by strong pitching, New York (10-9) improved to 6-1 on its 10-game homestand and moved above .500 for the first time since beating Florida on Opening Day. The Mets have won four in a row for only the second time since last May the other streak was a five-game run from July 25-30. And while New York has certainly benefited from shoddy play by the Cubs and Braves of late, this mini-surge has perhaps taken some of the heat off manager Jerry Manuel and GM Omar Minaya that accompanied the team's poor start. The Braves squandered several early scoring chances against Pelfrey (4-0), lifted after throwing 106 pitches through five innings. Raul Valdes threw a strike to rookie Jason Heyward to open the sixth before umpires called for the tarp and waved players off the field, depriving Pelfrey getting credited with a complete game. Atlanta committed two more errors on a damp, dreary, 50-degree night at Citi Field. The Braves made seven errors in 21 innings on defense during the series, including three by Jones at third base. Pelfrey matched a career high with five walks but wriggled out of some major jams as Atlanta stranded eight runners for a series total of 26 in 23 full innings of offense. With the bases loaded and two outs in the first, Heyward saw nine pitches but popped out. Pelfrey came back from a 3-0 count to strike out Martin Prado with two on to end the second. Heyward and Troy Glaus later grounded into inning-ending double plays with two on. Pelfrey, who also saved a 20-inning win at St. Louis on April 17, hasn't given up a run in his last three starts. The last time he was touched up came in the second inning April 9 against Washington, his first outing of the year. Pelfrey allowed five hits, struck out three and lowered his ERA to a major league-best 0.69. His career-best scoreless streak is the longest by a Mets pitcher since John Maine went 26 innings from July 15 to Aug. 12, 2006. With rain falling in the first inning, Reyes looped a two-out single to left and stole second. Jones made a tough, backhand stab of Jason Bay's sharp grounder inside the third-base line, but struggled to get back to his feet and bounced a wide throw to first that eluded Glaus. Bay was credited with an infield single and Reyes scored on the throwing error. Jones, a Mets nemesis throughout his stellar career, hurt his hip on his first swing the previous day, on his 38th birthday, and left the game in the third inning following a pair of called strikeouts.