A few days ago, the New York Mets appeared to be on the verge of a second straight late-season collapse. A three-game win streak and a return to first place has dispelled any talk of that.
The Mets look to tighten their grip on the top spot in the NL East on Saturday night as they continue a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
A recent three-game losing streak that included consecutive defeats to lowly Washington dropped New York (86-67) behind Philadelphia into second place in the East. That skid also rekindled memories of the Mets’ historic 2007 collapse when they squandered a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining and missed the playoffs altogether.
New York, however, managed to win the final two games of its series against the Nationals before continuing its seven-game road trip Friday with a 9-5 victory over Atlanta.
With the Phillies losing to Florida, the Mets moved one-half game ahead of the Phillies with nine games left. New York closes the regular season with four contests against NL Central-leading Chicago and a three-game set with the Marlins.
“Now, we start with another magic number. It’s our magic number time,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said with a hearty laugh.
Rookie pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy delivered a tiebreaking double in the eighth inning and Jose Reyes scored three runs and drove in two as the Mets won for the first time in seven games this season at Atlanta.
Called up from the minors Aug. 2, Murphy is hitting .374 with two homers and 16 RBIs. He is 14-for-30 (.467) in September.
“Murphy’s been huge for us all season. We’ve got to find a way to get him to the plate,” Manuel said. “You’ve got to manage to get him a shot. You know he’s good whether they throw a lefty or righty.”
After going 1-for-18 in the four-game series against Washington, New York’s David Wright had two hits and two RBIs Friday. Wright is batting .345 (20-for-58) with five homers and 13 RBIs this season against the Braves (67-87). Two of those home runs came off Saturday’s scheduled starter Jorge Campillo on Sunday at Shea Stadium.
Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a fifth-inning bunt single. He is batting .431 (28-for-65) during that run.
Atlanta’s Chipper Jones, leading the NL with a .362 batting average, had his 41-game streak of reaching base via a hit, walk or hit by pitch, end. He went 0-for-3 and left the game with a sore right shoulder after being called out on strikes in the fifth.
New York sends Pedro Martinez (5-5, 5.47 ERA) to the mound hoping the three-time Cy Young Award winner can avoid losing three straight starts for the first time in two years.
The right-hander gave up four runs and eight hits over six innings in Monday’s 7-2 loss at Washington. In his previous start, Martinez matched a season high by allowing six runs and seven hits through four innings in a 6-2 loss to Philadelphia.
Martinez didn’t receive a decision in his only start this season against Atlanta, yielding four runs and seven hits in seven innings of the Mets’ 5-4 win on Aug. 21. He is 11-9 with a 3.61 ERA in 29 appearances—22 starts—versus the Braves.
Campillo (7-7, 3.79) faces the Mets for the second consecutive start. The right-hander wasn’t sharp on Sunday, giving up four runs—three earned—and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings as Atlanta rallied for a 7-4 victory. He has failed to pitch four innings in two of his last four starts, going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in that span.
Campillo is 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA in three appearances—two starts—against the Mets.