The New York Mets put a serious dent in the playoff hopes of the Atlanta Braves with a three-game sweep at Turner Field last week. The NL East leaders hope to drop their division rivals further back in the pack when the clubs open a three-game set at Shea Stadium on Monday.
New York (81-61) snapped a season high-tying five-game losing streak with three straight wins in Atlanta from Aug. 31-Sept. 2. The Mets, who outscored the Braves 15-4 in that series, have won eight of nine games overall since they arrived in Atlanta.
The hot streak has increased the Mets’ division lead to six games over Philadelphia. Third-place Atlanta (73-70) is 8 1/2 games behind New York, and 4 1/2 games back in the NL wild-card race.
New York continued its surge with a 4-1 victory over Houston on Sunday. In his first home start of the season, Pedro Martinez held the Astros to six hits over five shutout innings for his second win in two starts since returning from rotator cuff surgery.
Carlos Beltran went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored, and is batting .405 (17-for-42) with three homers and nine RBIs in his last 11 games. Beltran is 18-for-47 (.383) with a homer in 12 games against the Braves this year.
Atlanta had a three-game win streak snapped Sunday with a 7-4 loss to Washington. Chipper Jones hit a two-run homer in the first inning, but he grounded out with the bases loaded in the seventh.
“We had the right guy up there with Chipper,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Jones, who’s 9-for-23 (.391) with three homers and eight RBIs in his last six games. “He just can’t do it every time.”
The Braves, who made every playoff field from 1991-2005, are now in danger of missing their second consecutive postseason.
“The goal doesn’t change, although now we have to have the mindset that we have to sweep them,” Jones said of the three-game series with the Mets. “Of course, we had that mindset the last time they came in here and we got swept.”
Oliver Perez (13-9, 3.46 ERA) will start for the Mets in search of his fourth win in five starts. The left-hander held Cincinnati to three earned runs in five innings of an 11-7 victory on Tuesday.
“The most important thing is we won,” Perez told the Mets’ official Web site. “It’s more important that I kept the team in the game.”
Perez has won three of his four starts against the Braves this year while compiling a 3.16 ERA. In 10 career starts against them, he’s 5-4 with a 3.48 ERA.
Jones is 7-for-18 (.389) with a home run in his career versus Perez.
The Braves will turn to Tim Hudson (15-7, 3.47), who is 7-3 with a 3.60 ERA in 11 career starts against the Mets, including 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in three outings this year. He’s also 5-1 all-time at Shea Stadium.
Hudson, however, yielded five runs and a season-high 11 hits in five innings against Philadelphia on Wednesday, when the Braves rallied for seven runs in the final two innings to win 9-8.
Beltran is batting .354 (17-for-48) with three home runs in his career against Hudson.
The Braves hold an 8-7 edge in the season series with the Mets, who haven’t won four straight games against Atlanta in a single season since Aug. 28-Sept. 3, 2003.