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Preview: Mets (81-61) at Braves (56-87)
Venue: Turner Field
Date: September 13, 2015 1:35 PM EDT
A late-season collapse is becoming increasingly unlikely for the NL East-leading New York Mets, and another victory will clinch their first winning season in seven years.
Yoenis Cespedes looks to continue his offensive barrage as the Mets go for their longest road winning streak against the Atlanta Braves in 26 years Sunday.
New York (81-61) isn’t the team in freefall this time, winning six in a row to take a commanding 9 1/2-game lead on second-place Washington, which has dropped five straight.
With 20 games left in the regular season, New York doesn’t appear to be in danger of falling apart down the stretch. The Mets squandered a 7 1/2-game lead with 17 to go in 2007 before blowing an advantage of 3 1/2 a year later, missing the playoffs both times.
They continued allaying any fears of a collapse Saturday, beating the Braves 6-4 to improve to 14-2 in their last 16 road games.
Cespedes, who was acquired from Detroit at the July 31 trade deadline, should be getting most of the credit for New York’s command of the East race. He’s hitting .392 with eight homers and 18 RBIs over the last 11 games – eight of them wins. Cespedes has four hits and five RBIs over the last two contests after homering in both.
“You see guys on hot streaks, but he has that cape right now,” Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “He’s feeling like Superman. He’s getting big hits. He’s a good player, a good hitter. He’s hot right now.”
So much so that Cespedes has joined the conversation over the NL MVP Award – something no Mets player has ever won.
New York’s offense may need to come up big again as Jonathon Niese (8-10, 4.36 ERA) takes the hill. The left-hander is 1-1 with a 10.53 ERA and 12 walks in 19 2-3 innings over his last four, leading to speculation that he’ll join the bullpen in the playoffs.
Turning in his worst performance of the season Monday, Niese was hammered for five runs and seven hits with three walks in 3 1-3 innings of an 8-5 win at Washington.
Niese, though, is 2-2 with a 2.06 ERA over his last six starts against Atlanta (56-87), winning his last two decisions in three starts with a 1.89 ERA.
He’s also facing a Braves team that’s lost a franchise-record 11 straight at home – its longest such skid since relocating to Atlanta in 1966. They had a 14-game slide as the Boston Rustlers in 1911.
A sweep of this four-game set would give the Mets their longest winning streak in Atlanta since taking five straight from 1988-89.
The Braves are turning to Ryan Weber (0-1, 3.00), who was solid in his major-league debut only to be the hard-luck loser in Tuesday’s 5-0 defeat at Philadelphia. The right-hander, a 22nd-round pick in 2009, allowed two runs and four hits in six innings hours after being called up from Triple-A Gwinnett.
“I thought he was terrific,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He mixed and matched his pitches, had a good sinker and got the ball over the plate. For his first major league start, he wasn’t at all worried. He was very impressive. I was really pleased.”
Weber was 6-3 with a 2.21 ERA in 27 appearances for Gwinnett, including six starts.