Coming off a doubleheader split, the Mets may have to face Jones one last time at Shea Stadium when they conclude a three-game set with the Braves on Sunday.
New York (83-64), trying to hold on to first place in the NL East, lost the opener of a doubleheader with Atlanta (66-83) on Saturday 3-2 before taking the finale 5-0. The Mets are 2 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia - three up in the loss column - with 15 to play.
But since 1994, when the Braves moved to the NL East, Atlanta has been the team trying to hold on to first place in most of their games at Shea Stadium. The Braves won 11 straight division titles before beginning a downturn in 2006. Atlanta is 56-65 at New York since the beginning of 1994, including two losses in three contests there in the 1999 NLCS, which the Braves won in six games.
Thanks partly to Jones’ hitting, Atlanta has always been competitive at Shea. The veteran third baseman is batting .308 with 19 home runs and 54 RBIs in 87 regular-season games there.
Jones sat out the doubleheader due to a stiff back, but he’s hoping to return to the lineup for his final chance to play at Shea. With Jones in the lineup, the Braves have a much better chance to play the role of spoiler.
“Let’s make it hard on these guys,” Atlanta second baseman Kelly Johnson said. “Maybe they collapse again.”
Johnson’s referring to 2007, when the Mets had a seven-game cushion in the division before losing out to the Phillies on the final day.
New York appears to have the confidence to hold off Philadelphia this season, having won 21 of 29, but the team knows it has to remain sharp.
“Even though we’re in first place, it’s not over yet,” Mets starter Johan Santana said. “We still have a long way to go. We have to protect our lead. We have to play better baseball. We have to do the little things.”
Perez will try to bounce back from his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings before New York beat Washington 10-8 on Tuesday night. The left-hander went 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his previous two starts.
Perez is 6-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 12 starts versus the Braves and Jones is batting .450 (9-for-20) against him.
Atlanta will counter with Jorge Campillo (7-7, 3.70), who has generally been a bright spot for the Braves this season but is 1-3 with a 6.87 ERA in his last seven starts. In his last outing, the right-hander gave up three runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings as Atlanta beat Colorado 5-4 in 10 innings on Tuesday night.
Campillo has not allowed a run in one start and one relief appearance against the Mets this season, going 1-0. He had not faced New York before this year.