Braves-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

Chipper Jones has spent much of his 19-year career tormenting the New York Mets and their fans.

The future Hall of Famer is getting one last series to do it in person.

Jones will try to help the Atlanta Braves extend their NL wild-card lead in the opener of a three-game set Friday night.

Jones is ending his long and outstanding career after this season, and he's spent a great deal of it giving New York (65-72) fits. The third baseman has a career .314 average against the Mets and his 49 homers are tied for his most against any opponent while his 158 RBIs rank second.

In fact, his success against the division rival even inspired him to name one of his sons Shea after Shea Stadium, the Mets' former home.

The 1999 NL MVP and eight-time All-Star has hit .293 with 22 homers and 69 RBIs in Flushing, where he's routinely serenaded with "Lar-ry! Lar-ry!" by the home fans, referencing his legal first name.

"Everybody calls me that, so it's not really that big a deal," Jones told the team's official website. "But we'll let them have their fun.

"I wouldn't really have it any other way. That's the way it's been up north, and I don't expect it to be any different. I've been a thorn in their sides for a long time."

He'll try to do it for one last series in New York and help the Braves (78-60) build on their five-game lead for the league's first wild-card spot.

Atlanta has won four of five, winning the last two by 1-0 scores over Colorado while scoring a pair of unearned runs and allowing nine hits. The Braves got Thursday's lone run in the second inning, when Juan Francisco alertly scored from third after an error on a throw back to the pitcher.

"It's one of those crazy things, but baseball is a crazy game. A lot of weird things can happen," second baseman Dan Uggla said.

The Braves send Paul Maholm (11-9, 3.79 ERA) to the mound hoping he can continue his success against the Mets. The left-hander has won his last two starts versus New York, scattering six hits over 16 scoreless innings. That includes a three-hit gem in a 4-0 victory Aug. 10 in his best performance with the Braves since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 30.

Maholm, though, will try to rebound from his worst performance in six starts with Atlanta. He surrendered seven runs and six hits with three walks over two-plus innings against Philadelphia on Sunday but escaped without a decision after the Braves rallied for an 8-7 victory.

Atlanta has won seven of eight against New York, but failed to sweep a three-game set at Citi Field with a 6-5 loss on Aug. 12.

The Mets won for the eighth time in 11 games with Wednesday's 6-2 victory at St. Louis.

Jonathon Niese (10-8, 3.55) is scheduled to start for the first time in eight days due to the team's six-man rotation.

The left-hander improved to 4-0 with a 3.91 ERA in his last four starts against the Braves, throwing eight strong innings in the Aug. 12 win.

Niese, though, has lost back-to-back starts for the first time this season, giving up six runs and 15 hits in 13 innings.

Jones is 4 for 17 with a homer lifetime against Niese.

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