Braves-Mets Preview

Jair Jurrjens was named the NL’s top pitcher for May. He may be

the best in baseball all season, and the New York Mets are well

aware of it.

Jurrjens looks to gain a share of baseball’s lead in victories

as the Atlanta Braves face the Mets in the middle game of this

series Saturday night.

Jurrjens (7-1, 1.51 ERA) was outstanding last month, going 5-1

with a 1.65 ERA. He won his last two starts while allowing one run

and 12 hits in 15 2-3 innings.

The right-hander leads the majors in ERA, and a victory Saturday

would tie him with Pittsburgh’s Kevin Correia for the most in the

majors. Fellow seven-game winners Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo and

Kyle Lohse of St. Louis are also scheduled to make starts.

Jurrjens had seven victories all of last season when injuries

limited him to 20 starts. He started this year on the disabled list

with an oblique injury, but matched that win total Sunday, yielding

one run in eight innings of a 2-1 win over Cincinnati.

He’s the fourth pitcher to allow two or fewer earned runs and

pitch at least six innings in each of his first nine starts of a

season, joining Randy Johnson (2000), Lefty Gomez (1937) and Ubaldo

Jimenez, who set the record last year when he did it in his first

12 starts.

“It’s an honor,” Jurrjens told the team’s official website.

“It’s not easy to be a starting pitcher in this league.”

Jurrjens is 8-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 11 starts versus the Mets

(26-31). He turned in a dominant effort against the NL East rivals

in his season debut April 16, scattering two hits in seven innings

of a 4-0 victory.

His last appearance at Citi Field wasn’t quite as enjoyable, as

he suffered a torn meniscus during a side session Sept. 17, and the

Braves (31-26) lost him for the playoffs.

“It’s going to be awkward going out there to warm up,” Jurrjens

said. “Things happen for a reason.”

Atlanta has enjoyed visiting the Mets, winning four in a row and

13 of 19 at Citi Field after Friday’s 6-3 victory.

New York’s last six home losses all have come in games in which

they led in the seventh inning, setting a major league record.

“They’re aware of exactly what’s going on,” manager Terry

Collins said. “They talked about it.”

The Mets have won just four times in 13 games, and Dillon Gee

(5-0, 3.83) has two of them. All seven of the rookie right-hander’s

starts have ended in New York victories, including a 3-2 win over

Atlanta on April 17, when Gee conceded one run in 5 2-3

innings.

He won a third consecutive start Monday, allowing three runs and

five hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings of a 7-3 win over

Pittsburgh.

“He’s the best I’ve been around for a guy that young at this

level,” Collins told the team’s official website. “Nothing bothered

him, and he just keeps pitching. He gets the ball back and he keeps

pitching.”

Gee was charged with a 4-2 loss in his only home start against

the Braves on Sept. 18, giving up three runs in seven innings.

Atlanta may not have Jordan Schafer available after he was hit

in the face with a foul tip on an attempted bunt to leadoff the

fifth Friday. He fell to the ground holding his face before being

examined by trainers and transported to a hospital for X-rays.