Braves-Mets Preview

The Atlanta Braves and New York Mets are both trying to build

momentum. The Braves have been very good at that when facing the

Mets, and pitching is a major reason.

Atlanta’s Derek Lowe will try to keep that going by rebounding

from one of his roughest outings of the season in the opener of

this three-game series at Citi Field on Friday night.

The Braves (31-26) are 6-7 since a four-game winning streak last

month, and hope to build on Wednesday’s 4-3 win over San Diego

after dropping the first two games of the series. Each of their

past five games – three wins – have been decided by one run.

“Fifth straight one-run game is not good for the (heart),”

manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “It’s a good start to June.”

The Mets (26-30) are also coming off a victory, erasing a

seven-run, third-inning deficit to rally past Pittsburgh 9-8 on

Thursday for their fourth victory in 12 games.

“You need wins like this to show you can do it,” manager Terry

Collins said. “You have 27 outs. You don’t stop until the game is

over.”

Atlanta has dominated New York, winning 13 of the last 17

meetings while compiling a 2.13 ERA – 0.91 from the bullpen. That

includes winning five of six at Citi Field, and outscoring the Mets

10-5 while winning two of three at home April 16-17.

Lowe (3-4, 4.03 ERA) was impressive in a 4-2 win in the opener

of that series, allowing two runs in six innings before the Braves

swept the doubleheader with a 4-0 victory in the nightcap.

The right-hander, who turned 38 Wednesday, hasn’t been nearly as

sharp in eight starts since, going 1-2 with a 5.31 ERA. He’s walked

10 over 9 1-3 innings in his last two starts, and hist most recent

outing was among his worst this season.

Lowe gave up five runs and seven hits while walking five before

getting pulled with one out in the fourth of a 7-6, 12-inning win

over Cincinnati on Saturday.

“It was frustrating,” Lowe said. “It got to the point you were

just trying to throw strikes. That’s never a good sign.

“You can’t act like 10 walks (in two games) isn’t a big issue,

because it is. You really have to try to figure it out.”

Jonathon Niese (4-5, 3.92) has figured out how to succeed at

spacious Citi Field.

The left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA in his last four starts

there after going 0-6 with a 6.33 ERA in his previous eight with

all of them resulting in Mets defeats. That stretch includes a 6-4

loss to Atlanta on Sept. 17, during which Niese allowed all of the

Braves’ scoring in unearned fashion in four innings.

He continued his recent stellar stretch at home Sunday, allowing

one unearned run with six strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of a 9-5 win

over Philadelphia.

The Mets, though, are 13-16 at home and 3-4 on this 10-game

homestand.

“We needed to start playing better,” said Jose Reyes, who was 1

for 4 Thursday in his return from the bereavement list. “We know

we’re better than this. We know our manager is behind us 100

percent, and we have to be behind him.”

Reyes, the team leader with a .333 average, is hitting .204 with

10 strikeouts over his last 12 meetings with the Braves, and is 3

for 16 lifetime against Lowe.

He’s 15 for 31 with three doubles and two triples over his past

seven games.