After an all-around off night ended their winning streak, the Atlanta Braves hope to regroup behind a pitcher who has been stellar at Turner Field.
Paul Maholm hasn't been too shabby when facing the rival New York Mets, either.The left-hander looks to continue both those strong runs Monday in the opener of a three-game series.After totaling 20 runs during its six-game winning streak, Atlanta came up empty in a 7-0 loss to Miami on Sunday. Justin Upton went 1 for 4 after missing two starts with a left hand contusion, while NL batting-leader Chris Johnson is expected to return to the lineup after being limited to pinch-hitting duty due to minor leg soreness.The Braves (83-53), who lead the NL East by 14 games, rank last in the majors with 34 runs since Aug. 18. They've made up for those struggles, however, by posting baseball's third-lowest ERA (2.87) over that span.Atlanta might not need much scoring with Maholm (9-10, 4.37 ERA) taking the mound against the Mets (62-73).After allowing five runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 6-2 loss at St. Louis on Aug. 22 in his first start in more than a month due to a left wrist contusion, Maholm limited Cleveland to one run over six innings before Atlanta pushed across a run in the ninth for a 3-2 victory at Turner Field on Wednesday.Maholm hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his eight home starts, going 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA."My goal for the whole month of September is to get back to (the playoffs) and for them to have confidence in me going forward," Maholm told the team's official website.He's also had New York's number of late, going 3-1 with an 0.64 ERA while holding them to a .196 batting average in his last four starts. He was a tough-luck loser in the last outing, however, giving up two runs in seven innings of a 6-1 defeat June 18.Daniel Murphy is 1 for 3 against Maholm this season and 8 for 15 with three RBIs lifetime. The second baseman has also gone 12 for 21 with five doubles in his last five games overall.Although the Mets have averaged 7.5 runs while hitting .333 in their last four games, they had their three-game winning streak snapped in Sunday's 6-5 loss at Washington.New York's bullpen failed to hold a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning, and its relievers could become a factor again in this contest if Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2, 8.68) is unable to turn things around.The veteran right-hander has allowed nine runs and 12 hits in two starts since signing with the Mets on Aug. 22. He gave up four runs and six hits over 4 1/3 frames in Wednesday's 6-2 loss to Philadelphia."I will tell you -- his stuff's good enough," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "When he commands it, he's going to get outs, because it's good enough."Matsuzaka is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two career starts against the Braves, but hasn't faced them since 2009 while with Boston.He might have his hands full with Freddie Freeman, who is hitting .357 with four homers and 11 RBIs in his last 15 games versus the Mets. Dan Uggla is batting .375 with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last 19 against them.
Jordan Schafer is the 1st Braves player to steal 3 bases in a game since Willie Harris on June 30, 2007 (at Marlins) and the 1st Braves right fielder to do it since Otis Nixon on June 16, 1991 (at Expos).
With his start today, Daisuke Matsuzaka put the nail in what has been a disappointing career post-2008. Since 2009 - the year following his 18-3, 2.90 ERA season with the Red Sox - no pitcher who has thrown at least 300 innings as an ERA as high as Dice.