Braves 12, Mets 0

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ATLANTA (AP)—John Smoltz and Andruw Jones reached gratifying milestones. The New York Mets reached “a low point,” according to third baseman David Wright.

The NL East champions are looking to gain momentum for the postseason. Instead, an embarrassing 12-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night extended their late-season slump.

The Mets have been outscored 24-4 in three straight losses. They have dropped six of seven and nine of 12 overall.

New York has only five more road games—including a key playoff tuneup for Pedro Martinez on Wednesday night against the Braves—before the regular season ends.

“We’re not panicking,” Wright said. “We need to get going.

“This could be a blessing in disguise,” he added. “We have hit a low point. It lets us realize we’re not exactly the team we need to be.”

Smoltz pitched eight sharp innings for his 15th win, including victories in his past three starts.

Jones became the first Atlanta hitter with consecutive 40-homer seasons. He has connected in five of the last eight games.

Smoltz (15-9) gave up six hits and walked two, reaching 15 wins for the first time in eight years. He struck out six.

“That’s the kind of pitching we’ll face in the playoffs,” Wright said. “We need to get ready.”

Mets left-hander Oliver Perez gave up homers to Jones, Willy Aybar and Matt Diaz. Aybar had three hits and Edgar Renteria hit a three-run double in a six-run eighth.

Mets manager Willie Randolph was upbeat after the game, confidently predicting, “We’ll turn the page.”

“My confidence is always high,” Randolph said. “I don’t want to get too analytical. It’s just another game. … I don’t think this has anything to do with (the playoffs) next week.”

But Randolph’s players expressed concern.

“We need to start playing a little better than we have the last six or seven games,” catcher Paul Lo Duca said. “We need to start clicking a little more before we go into the playoffs.”

Smoltz is 29-16 in two seasons back in the rotation after four years as the Braves’ closer. He last reached 15 wins in 1998, when he was 17-3.

But he said another strong season or a lopsided win over the Mets does not make up for being trounced by New York in the division race.

“No. None,” Smoltz said. “It doesn’t matter if we win these three games with the exact same score.”

Smoltz had his $8 million option for 2007 picked up by the Braves last week.

“My thing is, finish strong, finish it out,” Smoltz said. “I still enjoy pitching.”

Macay McBride worked the ninth for Atlanta.

Perez (3-13) took his third loss with only one win in six starts since joining the Mets in a trade from Pittsburgh. He gave up seven hits and six runs with three walks and five strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings.

Aybar led off the first with a double, advanced to third on Marcus Giles’ single and scored on Renteria’s sacrifice fly. Jones followed with the two-run homer, his 40th, for a 3-0 lead.

The only other players in franchise history to post consecutive 40-homer seasons were Eddie Mathews (1953-55) and Hank Aaron (1962-63), both with the Milwaukee Braves.

“It’s a good, solid season when you have 40 home runs,” Jones said. “It’s tough. But if you stay focused and go out there every day, those numbers come up.”

Jones set a club record with 51 homers last season.

Aybar hit his fourth homer in the third inning, just over the reach of left fielder Cliff Floyd’s outstretched glove. Diaz added his seventh homer in the fourth for a 5-0 lead.

Diaz drove in Jones with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly to push the lead to 6-0 and knock Perez out of the game.

The Braves added six eighth-inning runs on six hits off Heath Bell. Brian McCann’s RBI double drove in Ryan Langerhans. Pinch-hitter Daryle Ward and Giles added run-scoring singles before Renteria’s three-run double.

Notes

With his sixth strikeout, Smoltz tied Frank Tanana for 19th place on the career list with 2,773. … Braves 3B Chipper Jones did not play due to a sore left oblique and a sore second toe on his right foot. 1B Adam LaRoche also was held out of Atlanta’s lineup with a sore right hamstring. … The Mets already are assured of their first winning record in Atlanta since 1992. They fell to 5-2 in Atlanta and 10-6 overall against the Braves this season. The Mets’ record at Turner Field is 25-53.

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