Atlanta (12-18) at New York (21-9)

Partly Cloudy Currently: New York, NY
Temp: 76° F
  • Game info: 1:10 pm EDT Sun May 7, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The division-leading New York Mets are off to their best start in 18 years as they hope to snap the Atlanta Braves’ streak of 14 consecutive division crowns.

The Mets (21-9) look to sweep the Braves (12-18) for the first time in three years when the teams wrap up a three-game set at Shea Stadium on Sunday.

New York went 6-13 against its NL East rival last season, but already has five wins in eight games against Atlanta in 2006.

The Mets have won nine of their last 11 games, and have 21 wins through 30 games for the first time since 1988, also the last time they won the NL East.

New York scored four runs in the seventh inning in Friday’s 14-inning win over the Braves, and again scored four runs in the seventh inning of its 6-5 win on Saturday.

The Mets are coming off a two-game sweep of Pittsburgh, and have not swept Atlanta since Sept. 1-3, 2003—a span of 15 series.

New York send Jose Lima to the mound to make his first start of the year as it aims for a fourth series sweep of the season. Lima takes the rotation spot of John Maine, who is on the disabled list with inflammation in his right middle finger.

The right-hander went 2-3 with a 5.10 ERA in six starts at Triple-A Norfolk, and is 1-4 with a 4.36 ERA in 11 career games against the Braves.

Lima went 5-16 with a 6.99 ERA in 32 starts last season for Kansas City, when the former 20-game winner didn’t record his first win until his 14th start on June 15.

The Mets have scored 20 runs in their last three games and have pounded out 10 or more hits in four straight contests. New York has not had at least 10 hits in five straight games since Aug. 13-18, 2003.

Carlos Beltran has homered in two straight games to give him seven on the season, but is just 3-for-16 lifetime against John Smoltz, Sunday’s starter.

Smoltz (1-2, 4.05 ERA) is starting on three days rest after reliever Chuck James was forced to leave Friday’s loss with a right hamstring injury and was replaced in the 13th inning by Jorge Sosa, Sunday’s original scheduled starter.

Smoltz allowed three runs in seven innings but did not get a decision in Atlanta’s 5-4 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Smoltz, who will turn 39 in eight days, allowed three runs in seven innings in a 5-2 loss to the Mets on April 28, and is 12-11 with a 3.54 ERA in 31 career starts against New York.

The 18-year veteran has made 18 career starts on less than four days rest, and is 7-7 with a 4.93 ERA in those games.

“I’m not concerned,” Smoltz said. “From a purist’s standpoint, you’d like to be out there pitching every four days. “Mentally, you just have to be tougher.”

The Braves have lost nine of their last 12 games and are nine games out of first place in the NL East for the first time since Aug. 11, 1993.

“It’s not a matter of effort,” Smoltz said. “It’s a matter of finding a way to win some of these games. Everybody realizes the importance of getting ourselves going. It’s just not working right now. We need to start winning.”

Braves shortstop Edgar Renteria doubled on Saturday to extend his hitting streak to 21 games, tying his career high set in 1996 as a rookie.

Renteria has struggled in his career against Lima, though, going just 4-for-27 (.148) with five strikeouts.

Related Articles

Starting Pitchers

J. Smoltz StL vs. J. Lima NYM
16-9 Record 0-4
3.49 ERA 9.87
211 K 12
55 BB 10
1.19 WHIP 2.02