Mets-Braves Preview

For being considered a patchwork group, the Atlanta Braves’ starting staff is clipping along rather seamlessly.

After Ervin Santana’s impressive Atlanta debut, David Hale is next in line to keep a remarkable string of starts going Thursday night at home against the New York Mets.

Despite key rotation injuries, Atlanta (5-3) hasn’t had a starting pitcher allow more than two runs yet this season. After Santana gave up three hits in eight scoreless innings in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the Mets (3-5), Braves starters are 4-3 with a 1.37 ERA and .172 opponents’ batting average.

"This is better than a no-hitter," said Santana, who accomplished that feat in 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels. "When you throw strikes all the time, that means you’re in control of the game."

Atlanta’s offense hasn’t exactly held up its end of the bargain, scoring two runs or less five times and providing pitchers with a run-support average of 2.44.

The top of the order did almost all of the damage Wednesday with Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman combining for a 7-for-12 night. Heyward and Freeman drove in two runs each while Heyward set the tone in the bottom of the first with a leadoff home run to break out of an 0-for-20 stretch in the last five games.

Freeman is 11 for 23 since an 0-for-4 performance on opening day and has hit safely in the last five games.

Hale has never faced the Mets, and he’ll try to make them the fourth team he’s had a successful start against in as many tries in his career.

The right-hander went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in two September outings and got off to a promising 2014 start in Friday’s 2-1 victory at Washington. Hale left with a lead and settled for a no-decision after throwing five innings of scoreless ball, yielding five hits and a pair of walks while striking out four on an efficient pitch count of 73 while dealing with a stomach bug.

"It’s good to be back in normal health and everything," Hale told the team’s official website. "I think I’ll be feeling pretty good."

Hale will be opposed by Jenrry Mejia, whose first start of 2014 was a bit more wasteful but resulted in a win. Mejia needed 101 pitches in six innings of a 4-3 home victory Friday against Cincinnati, striking out eight and giving up one run, four hits and five walks.

The right-hander allowed four runs over five innings in his only start against Atlanta, a 6-2 loss Sept. 30, 2012.

After being blanked by Santana, New York rallied in the ninth for three runs off Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel, but it wasn’t able to complete the comeback in a 6-for-33 night at the plate.

The Mets’ .190 average and .261 on-base percentage are among the worst in baseball.

"There’s no easy answer," manager Terry Collins told the team’s official website. "The issue is, no matter what the count is, we’re not doing any damage with pitches. We’re hitting ground balls to short. We’re hitting routine fly balls to center. We’ve got to start getting the ball squared up on the barrel of the bat."

Mets third baseman David Wright went 2 for 4 to break out of a 2-for-21 slump in the previous six games.

Braves center fielder B.J. Upton, hitting .138, was out of the lineup but will return Thursday.