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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Preview: 2011 Regular Season Game 14/15 - Mets at Braves (DH)

Mike Pelfrey
New York Mets (4-9) at Atlanta Braves (5-8), 4:10 & 7:40 p.m. (DH)

Probable Starting Pitchers: Game One: New York - D.J. Carrasco (0-0, 4.05) Atlanta - Derek Lowe (1-2, 1.45)

Game Two: New York - Mike Pelfrey (0-1, 10.80) Atlanta - Jair Jurrjens (0-0, 0.00)

Both the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets began the season with hopes of contending for the National League East title, but slow starts now have both teams just trying to right the ship.

The Mets aim to snap a five-game slide and the Braves try to avoid a fifth loss in six games when the teams play a doubleheader this afternoon at Turner Field. The two clubs were to start the three-game series on Friday, but rain made this a twinbill.

Atlanta is coming off a season in which it captured the National League Wild Card to reach the postseason for the first time since 2005, but has just two wins in its past nine games and sits fourth in the division at 5-8. That is one game ahead of New York, which is 4-9 thanks to its slide.

Starting fast hasn't been an issue for Atlanta, which has won the first game of each of its four series this season. However, the Braves have won just one of those, a three-game set from the Nationals on March 31-April 3 to begin the season.

The Braves kicked off a three-game series against the Marlins with a 5-0 win on Tuesday, but then dropped games of 5-1 and 6-5. Thursday's one-run loss was charged to the bullpen after Eric O'Flaherty gave up the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.

Starter Brandon Beachy yielded five runs over 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision.

"I definitely learned these last two starts, something that's already known, that I don't start the quickest," Beachy admitted. "It takes me an inning or two to get going. When I can settle down, I know it's going to be a good day. I need to have pitches, especially my breaking ball there from the first inning."

Brian McCann connected on a three-run homer, while Dan Uggla hit his third home run of the season in the loss. All three of Uggla's homers have been of the solo variety and he is batting just .160 on the season.

Atlanta will try to give starter Derek Lowe some support, something it has failed to do in his past two starts.

The right-handed Lowe has dropped consecutive outings to Milwaukee and Philadelphia despite giving up three runs in 13 innings over that span. Atlanta, though, was shut out in both games, including Lowe's Sunday start versus the Phillies in which he gave up two runs on seven hits without a walk over seven innings while falling to 1-2 with a 1.45 earned run average.

Lowe, 37, is 6-2 with a 1.29 ERA over his last eight regular season starts and went 1-2 with a 2.96 ERA in four starts against the Mets last year.

He may be catching New York at a good time as it is coming off a four-game sweep at the hands of Colorado. That includes going winless in Thursday's doubleheader, dropping the first game 6-5 for its third straight one-run loss before a 9-4 setback in the backend.

New York grabbed early leads in both games, but failed to hold on and has lost eight of nine.

"Our team has been doing such a good job giving us early leads," said Game 2 starter Chris Capuano. "I gave a couple of leads away and that's upsetting for a starting pitcher."

With starter Chris Young having his start pushed back until Sunday due to right biceps tendinitis, reliever D.J. Carrasco will draw his first start since 2009 today.

That start was the lone that season for Carrasco, who did make 20 with the Royals in 2005. The right-hander isn't sure how long he can pitch, but New York manager Terry Collins estimated he'll max out at about 75-80 pitches.

"I can't really answer how long it's going to take me to run out of gas," Carrasco told New York's website. "It just depends how well I'm pitching that day."

Still, it could be a long day for Collins given that his bullpen is 1-3 with a 4.79 ERA this season, ahead of only Arizona (6.17 ERA) in the NL.

The starters for Game 2 will be Mike Pelfrey for the Mets and Jair Jurrjens for Atlanta. It's been rough going for Pelfrey, who has given up a total of 14 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings this season. He yielded six hits and four runs -- three earned -- in a no-decision against the Rockies on Monday. He's 4-8 with a 5.56 ERA lifetime against the Braves.

Jurrjens will come off the disabled list to make his first start of the season. The righty, who has been out with a right oblique strain, has sparkled with a 7-2 mark and 2.81 ERA in 10 career starts vs. the Mets. He went 7-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 20 overall starts during the 2010 campaign.

New York shortstop Jose Reyes went 3-for-9 in Thursday's doubleheader, hitting his first homer of the season in the first game and driving in a total of three runs. He has hit in 12 straight and is batting .328 on the season.

Outfielder Angel Pagan, though, was 0-for-7 in the twinbill and is hitting just .188 on the season.

Atlanta won 11 of 18 over New York last year, prevailing in seven of the final eight matchups as well as six of nine at Turner Field.
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