Mets Hammer Another Nail In Braves Coffin

It certainly wasn't a pretty beginning. The game marked the fourth time this year, but merely the sixth time ever, that the Mets have begun a series leading the Braves in the standings: once -- April, 15, 1966 -- before divisional play, and again one day shy of 36 years later.

(Reyes celebrates whilst bench coach Jerry Manual, looking more like Morgan Freeman every day, shares a larf.)

Well, a lead off homer by Jose Reyes and two runs for the Mets in the opening frame was certainly cause for excitement and cause to quiet a record Turner Field crowd of 53,943, most of whom were probably there for the post-game fireworks show.

But with a trepid Pedro, still recovering from food poisoning weight loss, in his first appearance in 30 days on the mound and giving up a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases with none out in the bottom half of the first, it started getting ugly quick.

Then Andruw Jones slams a two-run double to tie the score and in days of auld, this might be head-hanging time with the score tied and the Braves still having none out. A sac fly gave the Braves their lead and then Francoeur doubling yet again to score yet another run to make it 4-2.

All in the first inning alone and in years previous, this would be head-hanging time for the Mets.

Amazingly, Pedro returned from this 30 day lay off without a rehab start, thrown to the wolves in his first outing back.

But the Braves wouldn't score again the rest of the night and their brief hopes of trying to put the fear of the past into the Mets and add some excitement to their dwindling NL East hopes all came to an end after the Mets came roaring back to tie the game in the top of the 2nd after Pedro himself doubled to start his own rally, Reyes walked and then Carlos Beltran singled them both home a batter later to tie the game at 4-4.

(Carlos Beltran, with 57 RBIs on the road and a mere 27 at Shea, is 4th overall in the National League in RBIs and just ahead of David Wright's 81 RBIs)

There was no looking back thereafter. After having thrown 38 pitches in the first two innings alone and working out early inning weakness and concerns, the Pedro of auld recovered to retire the final 12 Braves he faced and combined with yet another husky bullpen outing which saw a total of 17 consecutive Braves retired in all, the Mets gradually pulled ahead with solo runs in the 3rd and 7th innings (the latter from David Wright's22nd homer of the season)to give the Mets a 6-4 victory and another kick to the collective nuts of the Braves.

Who's the genius now, Bobby Cox?

Feliciano set the Braves down 1-2-3 in the 7th.

Duaner Sanchez struck out 2 in the 8th, finishing with a delicious strikeout of Andruw Jones, styming a Braves offence that had averaged 8 runs a game since the All-Star game.

Billy Wagner got his 21st save of the year striking out two to work a perfect 9th inning, the Mets went 20 games above .500 and the lead over the Braves now bursting at lucky 13 and the Braves now 3rd behind the Florida Marlins.

Those three relievers have ERAs of 2.23, 2.60 and 2.27 respectively. Is a third "name" starter such an imperative with at least two or three long arms in the bullpen and 7th, 8th and 9th inning finishers like this?

(Two Auld Mets Celebrate Another Victory Over the Braves)

And not only that, Larry Jones left the game reaggravating his left oblique muscle while batting in the fifth inning.

Saturday, Tim Hudson, who has a 2-1 record but a 7.56 ERA in four starts in July, will face El Duque, who for my money, is a perfect third starter for a post season considering his post season record. That's El Duque with a career postseason record of 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 19 appearances, 14 starts.

This regular season with the Mets, in five of his last eight starts, he has pitched at least seven innings and allowed a total of eight runs -- a 1.95 ERA. In the other three, he has pitched a total of 6 1/3 innings and allowed 13 runs.

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