The Braves are coming off a 9-3 loss to the Mets on Wednesday, as they were swept by New York for the first time since Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 1995. It was also their fifth defeat in seven games.
“We’ve been matching everyone’s intensity up until this point and anytime you call guys up in September, especially young guys, it’s going to be like April for them,” right fielder Gary Sheffield said. “It’s going to be difficult for us to match the intensity of 21-year-olds, who are going out there trying to make impressions for next year.
“We’ve just got to get ready for the playoffs and get our intensity up for that.”
The Braves, who have four three-game losing streaks this season, finished their road trip 2-4. Their wins came at Pittsburgh last weekend.
“We’ve really played well on this road trip to come back with a losing record,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
The Braves were charged with six errors in the New York series, including four in Wednesday’s loss.
The Pirates come in off Thursday’s 5-1 loss to the Florida Marlins—their fourth setback in five games. Matt Stairs homered and Carlos Rivera had two hits for Pittsburgh, which managed just four runs in its three-game series with Florida after leading the majors with a .293 batting average in August.
STANDINGS: Pirates - 4th place, 9 GB, NL Central. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
PIRATES PROBABLE GAME ONE STARTER: Oliver Perez (4-8, 5.77 ERA). On Saturday, Perez, who was acquired from San Diego on Aug. 26, made his Pirates debut and gave up six earned runs and four hits in just 2 1-3 innings of a 13-6 loss to the Braves. It was his fourth defeat in as many starts. That start was the 22-year-old left-hander’s first against Atlanta.
BRAVES PROBABLE GAME ONE STARTER: Horacio Ramirez (9-4, 4.36 ERA). On Saturday, Ramirez gave up five earned runs and a season-high 10 hits in seven innings of a 13-6 win over the Pirates—his first victory since July 7. It was the 23-year-old rookie’s first career start against Pittsburgh.
PIRATES PROBABLE GAME TWO STARTER: Brian Meadows (2-1, 5.20 ERA). Meadows has made two relief appearances since his last start on Aug. 24, when he gave up six earned runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings of the Pirates’ 10-9 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, escaping without a decision. In his six starts this season, he is 1-0 with a 6.91 ERA. He is 1-5 with a 4.56 ERA in nine career appearances, including eight starts, against Atlanta.
BRAVES PROBABLE GAME TWO STARTER: Shane Reynolds (11-7, 5.34 ERA). Reynolds gave up four earned runs and nine hits in 7 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 10-4 win over the Pirates—his sixth victory in nine decisions. The 35-year-old right-hander is 12-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 24 career appearances, including 21 starts, against the Pirates.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Pirates - Jason Kendall, .323 avg. and 75 runs; Reggie Sanders, 29 HRs, 75 RBIs and 11 SBs. Braves - Gary Sheffield, .329 avg. and 112 RBIs; Lopez, 36 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 114 runs and 24 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 4-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Pirates - OF Sanders is 9-for-25 with four doubles, a home run and five RBIs all-time against RHP Reynolds. … OF Stairs’ home run Thursday extended Pittsburgh’s streak of consecutive games with an extra-base hit to 40. … RHP Meadows is 1-0 with a 6.48 ERA in 11 appearances on the road, including three starts. Braves - 2B Marcus Giles is batting .476 (10-for-21) with a homer against the Pirates this season. … CF Andruw Jones has five hits—four homers and a double—in 22 at-bats against the Pirates this season. … 3B Vinny Castilla left Wednesday’s game with a bruised right thigh, but expects to play on Friday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pirates - 31-36 on the road; Braves - 46-21 at home.
INJURIES: Pirates - INF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; INF Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL; RHP Kris Benson (shoulder), 60-day DL; LHP Dave Williams (shoulder), 60-day DL. Braves - OF Damon Hollins (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kevin Gryboski (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP John Smoltz (elbow), 15-day DL; 3B Castilla (thighs), day-to-day.