Braves bring large division lead into opener with Mets

6:53 AM, Sep 2, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - September doesn't figure to be a grueling month for the Atlanta Braves given their cushion atop the NL East standings, but that doesn't mean they want to lose too many games like they did on Sunday.

The Braves aim to rebound on Monday afternoon in the opener of a three-game set versus the New York Mets.

Atlanta has a magic number of 13 to clinch its first division title since 2005, owning a 14-game edge over the Washington Nationals, and had won six in a row ahead of Sunday's finale with the last-place Miami Marlins. The Braves, though, lost for the first time on their nine-game homestand (5-1) as they were routed 7-0 in the finale of a three-game set.

Alex Wood came into the start for the Braves having gone 2-0 with a 0.90 earned run average in five August outings, but was hammered for seven runs and eight hits over three innings.

"It's been a while since I got beat that bad," Wood said. "I can't remember the last time. ... Now it's how you bounce back. You just got to get back up on the horse."

Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson did not start on Sunday due to fatigued legs, but added a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning to increase his NL-best average to .333. He is hitting just .216 in 14 games versus the Mets this season.

Atlanta's Paul Maholm tries to even his season record today as he makes his third start since coming back from a left wrist injury.

Maholm has not won since June 30, losing four straight decisions. However, the lefty pitched well on Wednesday versus Cleveland, allowing a run over six innings in a no-decision.

The 31-year-old is 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA in 22 starts this year, one of those coming against the Mets. Maholm faced them on June 18 and lost a 6-1 decision despite giving up just two runs and fanning seven over seven innings.

Maholm is 6-4 lifetime versus the Mets with a 3.49 ERA in 14 games (13 starts).

New York is coming off its first series victory since Aug. 9-11 and was in line for a sweep of Washington on Sunday before the Nats rallied for a 6-5 victory.

The Mets led by a pair of runs going into the eighth frame before the Nats got to the bullpen for three runs. New York had a three-game win streak snapped.

"Certainly, this is one we're going to look back on and kick ourselves a little bit for letting it get away. But yeah, winning a series is big," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Matt den Dekker, who was recalled Wednesday following the trade of Marlon Byrd, hit his first career homer for the Mets, while Daniel Murphy had a pair of hits. He is 12 for his last 21 at the plate with six RBI.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will make his third start for the Mets having lost his two previous outings while allowing nine runs, 12 hits and five walks over 9 1/3 innings. The 32-year-old righty needed 110 pitches to log 4 1/3 frames versus Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Matsuzaka has faced the Braves twice before, going 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA.

The Mets and Braves have split their previous 16 meetings this season.

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