Mets-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Atlanta Braves starters haven't had much trouble against the New York Mets this year, and there's little reason to think that will change Thursday night.

Mike Minor has dominated them lately, and the Braves will be looking to win his ninth straight start in the decisive finale of a five-game series.

Atlanta's rotation has a 2.31 ERA in nine games against New York this season, with 60 strikeouts compared to 13 walks in 58 1-3 innings. However, the Braves are just 5-4 in those games, greatly due to the bullpen's 10.22 ERA in the losses.

Luis Avilan and Craig Kimbrel threw two perfect innings in relief of Kris Medlen in a 5-3 victory Wednesday. The Mets were held to six hits and are batting a major league-low .226.

The Braves (43-30) haven't been defeated with Minor (8-2, 2.68 ERA) starting since New York did it in a 7-5, 10-inning victory May 3. Atlanta has since won all eight of his outings as he's gone 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

Even in that matchup with the Mets (27-41), Minor was in line to win as he left with a one-run lead after allowing three runs and three hits in seven innings. He was even better against them May 25, yielding three hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 6-0 victory. That outing improved the left-hander to 4-1 in eight starts against New York, including 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in the last three.

Minor is 12-0 with a 2.22 ERA in his past 18 outings against NL teams, but the worst performance during his personal unbeaten streak came Saturday. He yielded five runs and seven hits in six innings before the Braves rallied to beat San Francisco 6-5.

"I thought I made decent pitches, and if they were hit a little bit harder, a little bit softer, it could've went the other way," Minor told the team's official website.

David Wright and Daniel Murphy are a combined 0 for 13 with five strikeouts this year against Minor, who is 13-2 in his last 21 starts.

His counterpart Thursday has not had the same good fortune.

Jonathon Niese (3-6, 4.15) has a 1.93 ERA in his last five starts, but the left-hander is 1-6 over his past 10 as the Mets have averaged 1.6 runs with him on the mound.

Niese, among the NL's worst with 4.03 walks per nine innings, had four walks Saturday as he lost to the Chicago Cubs. However, he allowed only two runs and got through 5 2-3 innings in the 5-2 defeat.

"He battled into the sixth inning and didn't want to come out and that's what I want," manager Terry Collins said. "Guys who don't want to come out of the game."

Control issues also plagued him May 5 in Atlanta, tying a career high with six walks while surrendering seven runs in four-plus innings of a 9-4 defeat.

Many Atlanta hitters have enjoyed facing Niese. Jason Heyward is 8 for 20 (.400), Freddie Freeman has gone 7 for 22 (.318) and each has two homers against him.

Justin Upton is 6 for 13 versus Niese but enters Thursday in a 2-for-23 slump. He's batting .157 without a homer in his last 18 home games.

Atlanta hasn't lost a series at Turner Field all season but must win Thursday to keep that streak alive. New York fell 2-1 on Monday before sweeping Tuesday's doubleheader behind pitching phenoms Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

The Mets haven't won a series against an NL team since taking two of three versus the Cubs from May 17-19.

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