Mets-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Rain delayed the opener of a five-game series between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets by three and a half hours.

It could wreak similar havoc on Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader, as the forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms all day long with a 60 percent chance of precipitation.

If the rain stays away, this twinbill offers a tempting look at the Mets' future. They send 24-year-old Matt Harvey (5-1, 2.04 ERA) to the mound in the first game followed by 23-year-old Zack Wheeler making his major league debut in the nightcap.

Harvey has dipped slightly since jumping out to a 5-0 record in his first nine starts while holding opposing hitters to a .149 average. In his last five starts, opponents are batting .277 against him as the Mets (25-40) have gone 1-4. The right-hander hasn't won win since May 17 and is coming off his first loss of the season Thursday against St. Louis, even though he allowed one run in seven innings of a 2-1 defeat.

"He's as good as you're going to face in the big leagues," Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter said. "He's got electric stuff."

Harvey would get most of the headlines Tuesday if not for the debut of Wheeler, the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft. He was dealt to New York in 2011 as part of the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to San Francisco.

"I know it's going to be a big moment in my life," Wheeler said. "There's probably going to be some nerves."

He posted a 3.93 ERA in 13 starts for Triple-A Las Vegas this year, highlighted by 73 strikeouts in 68 2-3 innings.

Wheeler is not the only pitcher marking a first, however.

The Braves (42-28) will give Alex Wood (0-0, 3.52) his first start in the major leagues in the afternoon game. The 22-year-old Wood has yet to throw more than 36 pitches or two innings in six relief outings. He has struck out nine batters over 7 2-3 innings and opposing batters are hitting .185 off the left-hander.

While the early game will feature two young pitchers, the night contest includes a matchup between one man making his first start and one making his 231st in Paul Maholm (7-5, 3.65).

The left-hander has been a little shaky of late, allowing a homer in four straight starts while going 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA. Most recently, he tied a season high with three walks against San Diego, as he allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-3 defeat Wednesday.

Maholm has plenty of experience against the Mets, with a 6-3 lifetime record and 3.58 ERA. He has held them scoreless for 22 1-3 straight innings, including a three-hitter Aug. 10.

He faces a New York team averaging 2.6 runs in its last nine games. The Mets, losers of 11 of 14, rank last in the major leagues with 42 runs in June.

Though the emphasis will be on the mound Tuesday, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was the story Monday night, giving Atlanta a 2-1 victory with his two-run homer in the ninth inning. It marked Freeman's ninth home run against the Mets, his most against any team, and he now has a .311 lifetime average against New York. He has four multihit games against the Mets this season while batting .423.

The Braves, though, will have to find a way to replace Evan Gattis' production after the catcher was placed on the disabled list with an oblique strain on Tuesday. Gattis, who is second on the team with 14 homers and 37 RBIs, suffered the injury in his final at-bat Monday.

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