New York (93-63) at Atlanta (75-81)

  • Game info: 7:35 pm EDT Tue Sep 26, 2006
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Tony Gwynn & Jeff Passan: Video Subway Series?

The New York Mets will use the final week of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs. For the first time in 16 years, the Atlanta Braves won’t be.

After a disappointing end to their regular-season home schedule, the Mets look to build some momentum for a postseason run as they open a three-game series with the Braves at Turner Field on Tuesday.

New York (93-63) lost to the Washington Nationals 7-3 Monday in its home finale. The NL East champions finished 50-31 at Shea Stadium, losing five of their last six. They return home next week for Game 1 of the playoffs.

The Mets, however, were encouraged by the return of center fielder Carlos Beltran, who missed the previous six games with a strained quadriceps. He walked three times and grounded out.

In his only playoff appearance, Beltran hit .435 with eight home runs and 14 RBIs in 12 games for the Houston Astros in 2004.

“Right now, I don’t feel pain or soreness,” Beltran said. “I just feel a little, little tight. I just need to play now. I need to swing and get my pitches.”

Beltran helped the Astros beat the Braves (75-81) in their NLDS matchup that season, but he won’t get a chance to face Atlanta in the postseason this year.

Atlanta’s wild-card hopes officially ended Sunday, when the Braves squandered an early seven-run lead at Coors Field and lost 9-8 to Colorado— their third straight loss to the Rockies.

The Braves had not missed the playoffs since 1990, when they finished in last place before reeling off 14 consecutive division titles. A 6-21 mark in June essentially finished off any hopes of capturing another NL East title. The Braves were mathematically eliminated from the division race by the New York Mets two weeks ago.

Atlanta can still avoid a losing year, but only if it closes with a six-game winning streak—something that hasn’t happened all season.

“The way the season’s been going, even though we didn’t want to think we were out of it, it would’ve been tough,” Braves center fielder Andruw Jones said. “Guys didn’t stay healthy. Not doing the right job, not playing good defense, not hitting when we need to hit, not pitching where we should pitch.

“It’s been a season like that.”

Atlanta will start John Smoltz (14-9, 3.72 ERA), who is the only holdover from that 1990 Braves team. He’s not sure if he feels as optimistic about Atlanta’s chances going into next season as he did 16 years ago.

“At the end of 1990, we were thinking, ‘Wow, we may not be that far away,”’ said Smoltz, trying for the fifth 15-win season of his career. “We were going the other way this year. That’s why winning these last few weeks would have been nice.”

Smoltz has won his last two starts, posting a 1.80 ERA in that span. The right-hander gave up three runs and nine hits while striking out seven in seven innings in a 6-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

Smoltz is 1-2 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts against the Mets this season, and 14-13 in 33 starts and 28 relief appearances in his career against them.

New York will counter with Oliver Perez (3-12, 6.53 ERA). He suffered a loss in his last start, giving up three runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings in a 6-3 loss to the Florida Marlins on Wednesday.

The left-hander had his best game of the season against the Braves, striking out six in a six-hitter for an 8-0 win on Sept. 6. Perez is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA in five career starts against Atlanta.

The Mets lead the season series 9-5. New York swept a three-game series against the Braves in Atlanta for the first time in 21 years from July 28-30.

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Starting Pitchers

O. PĂ©rez WAS vs. J. Smoltz STL
3-13 Record 16-9
6.55 ERA 3.49
102 K 211
68 BB 55
1.75 WHIP 1.19


Tuesday, Sep 26