The Atlanta Braves are counting on their potent offense to take them into the postseason. So far, that plan is working out well.
The Braves look to cut further into the New York Mets’ NL East lead Wednesday when the teams continue their three-game series at Shea Stadium.
The Braves (60-53) picked up slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira at the trade deadline last week, hoping to piece together an overpowering lineup. The offense has certainly been doing the job lately—Atlanta scored in double figures in four straight games last week and has scored 19 runs during its current three-game winning streak.
The Braves pounded out 15 hits for the second straight night on Tuesday, winning 7-3 in the series opener. The victory was Atlanta’s seventh in 10 games against New York and moved the Braves within 3 1/2 games of the division-leading Mets (63-49).
“You look around baseball, (Teixeira’s) probably the biggest acquisition any team made at the deadline,” New York right fielder Shawn Green told the Mets’ official team Web site. “He’s going to make all their other hitters better.”
The victory also got the Braves off to a good start on a crucial road trip that also includes three games in Philadelphia this weekend. The Phillies are just one-half game behind the Braves in third place.
“It is a little more emotion because we’re playing within the NL East,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur told the Braves’ site.
Francoeur went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer as the Braves beat Mets starter Oliver Perez, who had recorded each of New York’s three previous wins in the season series. Francoeur is hitting .415 (34-for-82) over his last 19 games.
Teixeira went 0-for-3 but drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. He is 1-for-11 (.091) in his last three games after homering in each of his first three with his new team.
The Mets, meanwhile, had won four of five heading into this series, scoring 34 runs in the victories.
“We’ve been playing well,” third baseman David Wright told the Mets’ official Web site. “We went out there and we got beat. It’s one game.”
Smoltz was battered for seven runs—five earned—and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings of Saturday’s 9-2 loss to Colorado. However, the 40-year-old right-hander, who was making his fourth start since a stint on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, said his shoulder felt well enough that he would be able to throw before his start Tuesday.
“I’ll have the luxury now of working on it,” said Smoltz, who had gone seven innings in each of his previous three starts and allowed four earned runs combined. “The last few weeks of not being able to work on anything caught up with me.”
Smoltz is 17-13 with 24 saves in 24 chances and a 3.44 ERA in 65 career appearances—37 starts—against the Mets. He is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts against them this season.
The Mets will counter with another veteran right-hander, Orlando Hernandez (7-4, 3.00). The 37-year-old was originally scheduled to pitch Thursday, but manager Willie Randolph opted to skip Brian Lawrence in the rotation, moving Hernandez up a day.
Hernandez is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA in six career starts against the Braves, with the lone defeat coming in his first outing against them on April 23, 1998, while with the New York Yankees. He has never faced Atlanta at Shea.
He gave up one run in six innings without getting a decision in the Mets’ 3-2 loss in Atlanta on April 8 in his only appearance this season.
Hernandez is 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break. He gave up two runs in 6 2-3 innings Friday, but didn’t get a decision in the Mets’ 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.