New York (42-45) at Atlanta (43-45)

Fair Currently: Atlanta, GA
Temp: 71° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Thu Jul 16, 2009
  • TV: SNY, SPSO
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Injuries to key players have contributed to the New York Mets’ lackluster first half this season. Oliver Perez(notes), though, said he has come back in improved form.

The often wild Perez will look to continue his turnaround and help the Mets begin the second half of the season on a positive note Thursday night in the opener of a four-game road series against the Atlanta Braves.

The losses of Carlos Beltran(notes) (bruised right knee), Jose Reyes (right calf tendinitis), Carlos Delgado(notes) (right hip surgery), starting pitcher John Maine(notes) (right shoulder fatigue) and set-up man J.J. Putz(notes) (right elbow surgery) are some big reasons why fourth-place New York (42-45) is 6 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Philadelphia.

The Mets are not expected to have Beltran, Reyes, Delgado and Putz until at least August, while Maine could return at the end of this month.

After spending two months on the disabled list with right patellar tendinitis, Perez (2-2, 8.78 ERA) returned Wednesday and earned the victory in a 5-4 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After notching a career-best 15 victories with a 3.56 ERA in 2007, inconsistency has plagued the left-hander the last two seasons. He went 10-7 with a 4.22 ERA last year, but never recorded victories in consecutive outings

In April, he was booed after getting shelled in an exhibition loss at Citi Field, and went 1-2 with a 9.97 ERA in five regular-season starts before his injury.

Against the Dodgers, he overcame a season-high seven walks while allowing two runs and four hits over five innings.

“One of those games you have to keep your team in the game,” Perez said. “I feel healthy. I feel strong. I know what I have to do to get better.”

He didn’t get a decision and posted a 3.72 ERA in three starts against Atlanta last season after going 6-2 with a 3.17 ERA in the previous eight matchups.

Looking to avoid their third losing season in four years, the Braves have tried to improve their fortunes by making trades to bolster their lineup, starting with a four-player deal with Pittsburgh on June 3 for outfielder Nate McLouth(notes).

Atlanta (43-45) also swapped struggling outfielders with the Mets on Friday, acquiring Ryan Church(notes) for Jeff Francoeur(notes). While Francoeur has recorded a pair of two-hit performances with his new team, Church has gone 1 for 9 in his first two starts.

The Braves’ Derek Lowe(notes) (8-7, 4.39) comes out of the All-Star break looking to improve on his worst ERA in five NL seasons, and trying to build off what he called his “best start of the year.”

Lowe allowed one run over six innings in a 4-1 win Friday at Colorado after going 0-4 with an 8.61 ERA over his previous five outings.

“Derek Lowe was Derek Lowe tonight,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox told his team’s official Web site. “I think he’s back to normal again.”

The right-hander recorded his second career victory over the Mets on May 11 by giving up two runs and five hits in an 8-3 win in New York.

After going 1-8 in Atlanta last season, the Mets swept a two-game series at Turner Field from May 4-5.

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Starting Pitchers

O. PĂ©rez Hou vs. D. Lowe Tex
3-4 Record 15-10
6.82 ERA 4.67
62 K 111
58 BB 63
1.92 WHIP 1.52

Scoreboard

Thursday, Jul 16