While the Atlanta Braves picked up a rare win last time out, it's likely too little, too late.
The Braves try to win two in a row for the first time in September on Friday night in the first of three against the visiting New York Mets.Atlanta (76-76) scored only eight runs during a five-game losing streak before beating NL East champion Washington 3-1 on Wednesday despite being held to seven hits. Christian Bethancourt drove in two runs for the Braves, who are 4-11 this month and haven't won back-to-back games since Aug. 27-29.They remain well behind Pittsburgh for the second wild-card spot with 10 to play and could be officially eliminated as early as this weekend."For us, every game is Game 7," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.Chris Johnson is mired in a 6-for-42 slump and Justin Upton is batting .125 in September. Jason Heyward is 3 for his last 23 at home, but his status remains unclear after getting hit by a pitch on his left thumb."Thumbs (stink), I've dealt with it before," he told MLB's official website. "We'll see what happens. Once swelling is in there, it's tough to get it out."The Braves now turn to Julio Teheran (13-12, 2.89 ERA), who is trying to avoid losing four consecutive starts for the first time in his career. The right-hander has posted a 2.70 ERA during his losing streak while receiving a combined two runs of support.Teheran went the distance in Saturday's 3-2 loss at Texas, yielding three unearned runs and three hits."You're trying to control what you can control, and that's what I did," he said. "The whole game I felt pretty good."Teheran threw 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball to win 3-2 at New York on Aug. 27, improving to 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA over six career starts in the series. Ruben Tejada is 1 for 14 in their matchups and Travis d'Arnaud is 1 for 7.New York's Zack Wheeler (10-10, 3.61) had surrendered one or two earned runs in 12 of 13 starts before yielding six over four-plus innings in Saturday's 10-3 loss to Washington."Something was wrong with my mechanics, I couldn't figure it out," he said. "I came in here and looked at the video and still couldn't figure it out. It may have been just one of those days where my body wasn't together, fluent. But go get them next time."The right-hander could bounce back on the road, where he's gone 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA over a nine-start stretch. After winning each of his three starts against Atlanta during his 2013 rookie season, Wheeler is 0-2 in four meetings this year despite a 3.70 ERA.Upton is 0 for 18 in their matchups and Johnson is 2 for 17. However, Heyward and Freddie Freeman are a combined 14 for 32 with three homers and four doubles.The Mets (73-80) are set to embark on a season-ending nine-game road trip after falling 4-3 to Miami in Wednesday's home finale. Lucas Duda had two hits and two RBIs for New York, which has dropped five of seven."We're going to go into Atlanta and grind it out and try to finish as strong as we can," manager Terry Collins said.The Mets are 7-9 in the season series, including 2-4 at Turner Field.
Opponents have missed on 21.6 percent of swings they have taken against Zack Wheeler's fastball this season, the fifth-highest rate among qualified pitchers. Atlanta has an NL-high 19.7 percent swing-and-miss rate against fastballs.