Braves-Mets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated August 09, 2012
Having made all three of his starts on the road since getting called up, Matt Harvey is looking forward to making his Citi Field debut. The 23-year-old rookie, though, appears to have a tough task at hand with the surging Atlanta Braves coming to town. Coming off their first home win in over a month, the New York Mets try to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat to the Braves as these NL East rivals open a three-game set Friday night. After dropping nine straight at home for the first time since 2004, New York (54-58) finally came out on top during Thursday's series finale against Miami. Andres Torres went 3 for 3 with a homer and a season-high three RBIs in the 6-1 victory while R.A. Dickey threw a five-hitter to earn his major league best-tying 15th win. "That nine-game streak that was stopped today is more important than the 15 wins," Dickey said. Building on that victory, though, could prove difficult against the Braves (64-47). Atlanta has outscored New York 44-22 during a five-game run in this series and enters the weekend on quite a roll. The Braves have hit .299 with runners in scoring position in winning 12 of 15 - the best mark in baseball since July 24. Atlanta took two of three at Philadelphia with a 12-6 win Wednesday. Michael Bourn hit his ninth homer - two more than his total from the previous three seasons combined - while Dan Uggla had three hits and three RBIs. "It's been just a constant grind for me," said Uggla, who entered Wednesday hitting .136 since June 6. "I've been struggling way too long and my teammates have picked me up." Atlanta now gets its first look at Harvey (1-2, 3.86 ERA), who since earning the win and setting a club record with 11 strikeouts during his big league debut July 26 in a 3-1 victory at Arizona, has compiled a 5.73 ERA in losing his last two starts. He was tagged for five runs and eight hits over five innings Sunday in a 7-3 loss at San Diego. "It was one of those days where I couldn't find the strike zone and when I did, it wasn't quality," he said. "When you make a mistake, they're going to hit it. (Sunday) they did and I just need to do a better job." The promising right-hander, though, could bounce back in front of a home crowd that's been eagerly waiting to see him pitch. "He said the other day, the one thing he's been looking forward to is pitching (Friday)," manager Terry Collins told the Mets' official website. "He's going to have 100 people here, it's going to be a very special night for him to pitch his first game at home in front of his friends and family, and I'm anxious to see it. There's going to be a build-up, and I'm anxious to see how he handles it." Acquired from the Chicago Cubs before the trade deadline, Braves scheduled starter Paul Maholm (9-7, 3.75) held his own during his Atlanta debut Saturday but took the loss in a 3-2 defeat to Houston. The left-hander gave up all three runs on a pair of homers but struck out a season-best eight over seven innings. "I thought he did a hell of a job," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Most nights, with our offense, you win that game." Despite Saturday's disappointing result, Maholm is 5-1 with a 1.41 ERA over his last seven starts. He had gone 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA over his previous four matchups against New York before scattering three hits over seven scoreless innings during a 3-1 win while with Pittsburgh on June 13, 2011.
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