After being swept by the Braves in Atlanta last week, the New York Mets are on the brink of returning the favor at Citi Field thanks to some superb pitching.
While going for their longest home win streak since 2010, the Mets have a chance to sweep the Braves in a four-game series for the first time in 25 years Thursday night.New York (42-49) is 5-1 on a 10-game homestand following a 1-7 road trip that included a 4.96 ERA from the rotation while losing three games at Turner Field from June 30-July 2.Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacob deGrom and Dillon Gee have been solid in the first three games of this series, allowing one run over 21 innings for the Mets, who haven't swept the Braves in four games since July 20-23, 1989.Gee returned from nearly two months on the disabled list to toss the latest gem Wednesday, allowing one run in seven innings of a 4-1 victory."It's very different," Gee said. "Guys are having a lot of fun."Bartolo Colon (8-7, 4.04 ERA) looks to complete the sweep and help New York win five straight at Citi Field for the first time since a nine-game run from May 22-June 8, 2010.The right-hander, however, needs to solve his first-inning struggles. His 16 runs allowed in the opening inning are among the most in the majors this season, and he's surrendered nine over his last four starts.Those issues cost Colon in his last two outings. He lost both while surrendering 10 runs in 13 innings with seven coming in the first. Colon gave up four runs in the opening inning Saturday before allowing one over the next six in an 8-7 loss to Texas."I have no idea why," Colon said through a translator. "I was just having trouble getting my pitches where I wanted them that first inning."Colon hasn't had any such issues while splitting two season meetings with the Braves, allowing three runs in 14 innings.Daniel Murphy, the Mets' lone representative at Tuesday's All-Star game in Minneapolis, has five hits in this series with three going for doubles along with two RBIs. The second baseman is hitting .364 in 16 home meetings with Atlanta.The Braves have followed a nine-game winning streak with a four-game slide in which they've gone 5 for 38 with runners in scoring position, including 0 for 7 Wednesday."When we were winning nine in a row we were driving in the runs in situational hitting," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Obviously we are not doing that now."If those problems persist, Atlanta will need another strong performance from Aaron Harang (8-6, 3.67), who is trying to win a fourth straight start for the first time since April 5-20, 2011, with San Diego.The veteran right-hander has a 3.00 ERA while winning each of his last three games. He was shaky early at home Saturday, giving up three runs -- two earned -- in the opening inning before allowing one more over the next seven to earn a 10-4 win over Arizona.Harang, who made four starts with the Mets last year, has allowed one run and two hits with 14 strikeouts in 13 innings while splitting two starts against his former team in 2014. He was outstanding in Queens on April 18, tossing seven no-hit innings before the Braves went on to hold the Mets to one hit in a 6-0 win.
David Wright has hit .186 this season in at-bats to end with a pitch on the outer third of the plate or away, the sixth-worst mark among qualified NL hitters. Fifty-nine percent of Aaron Harang's pitches have been in that location this season, tops among all qualified pitchers.