Braves-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Mets haven't had much luck curbing the production of Atlanta's Freddie Freeman.

Not surprisingly, the Braves haven't had much trouble beating the Mets.

Freeman looks to lead surging Atlanta to an eighth straight win over New York as it seeks another sweep Sunday night at Citi Field.

Freeman got off to a quick start Saturday, hitting a two-run double in the first inning and a three-run homer that sailed over the giant apple behind the center-field fence as part of a seven-run second inning for Atlanta (66-47), which battered Johan Santana in his return from the disabled list in a 9-3 win.

The Braves, owners of the NL's top wild-card spot, won their third in a row and are a major league-best 14-3 since July 24. They're averaging 6.2 runs in those victories.

Atlanta's offense has been even better against New York (54-60), averaging 8.1 runs in winning the last seven meetings since a 6-1 loss April 16. The Braves are seeking their first eight-game winning streak over their NL East rival since 2009.

Freeman has been instrumental to the dominance in the series, batting .481 with three homers, five doubles and 15 RBIs during the winning streak. The first baseman is also hitting .362 with 14 RBIs in his last 13 games overall for the Braves, who are 35-7 when he drives in a run.

Freeman will try to continue his tear against Jonathan Niese (8-6, 3.82 ERA), against whom he is 4 for 10 with a double lifetime.

The Braves counter with Ben Sheets (4-1, 1.41), who is far exceeding expectations after being out of baseball for two years because of Tommy John surgery, having permitted one or no runs in four of his five starts.

"I don't even try to figure it out," Sheets told the Braves' official website. "I'm just happy that I feel good."

His comeback began against the Mets on July 15, when he gave up two hits and one walk while striking out five in six scoreless innings in a 6-1 win. Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole got the only hits off Sheets, who improved to 5-1 with a 3.32 ERA in his last seven starts against New York.

The right-hander was shaky against Miami on Aug. 1, allowing four runs and 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings in a 4-2 loss. He bounced back, though, with another solid performance against Philadelphia on Monday, yielding one run and seven hits in a season-high 7 1-3 innings of a 6-1 victory.

This will be his first appearance at Citi Field, where New York has lost 11 of 12.

The Mets, who are a season-worst six games under .500, have lost five of six overall and also dropped five Niese's last six outings.

Against the Marlins on Tuesday, Niese gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings of a 4-2 defeat. All four runs and five of the hits came in the fourth inning.

The left-hander has won his last three starts against the Braves despite a 5.19 ERA. He has been backed by a 9.35 run support average. Niese's last start in the series came in his season debut April 8, when he allowed four runs, two hits and four walks in six innings of a 7-5 victory.

Brian McCann, who returned Saturday after missing two games with a sore right shoulder, is hitless in nine career at-bats against Niese.

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