ATLANTA -- Jonathon Niese is gaining confidence as the season comes to a close. The difference is obvious to Mets manager Terry Collins.
"That's the Jon Niese we know," Collins said. "That's the guy who pitches to contact, makes pitches, locates it, moves it around, changes speeds. He pitched a nice game."
Atlanta has lost seven of eight to drop to 4-13 in September. Any combination of two Pittsburgh wins or Braves losses will eliminate the Braves from the NL wild-card race.
Niese (9-11) allowed two runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. The left-hander also struck out five and walked one while improving to 1-1 with a 2.14 ERA in his last three starts.
Niese said he feels better now than he has at any point since returning July 21 from a strained shoulder and three weeks on the disabled list.
"My shoulder feels great, my elbow feels great," he said. "For the most part I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes today and kind of mix it up well."
The Mets have won three of four.
Niese, who was just 2-4 with a 5.65 ERA in his previous six road starts since June 21, retired nine straight batters before loading the bases on consecutive singles with one out in the eighth.
Jenrry Mejia then worked the ninth for his 27th save in 30 chances.
Minor (6-12) dropped to 0-8 in his last nine September starts. He missed the first 27 games of the season with shoulder tendinitis.
"Yeah, it's the same thing, so it's kind of frustrating because I don't feel like it's anything serious," Minor said. "It's nagging pain that won't go away. It's there every pitch. I felt it the last couple of starts more and more. Tonight was worse than the others."
David Hale came in and fell behind 3-0 in the second on Herrera's third homer, a two-run shot just inside the left-field foul pole.
"I like early runs," Niese said. "I don't want to say it helps me relax but it's nice to have that run support. It's a good feeling knowing that one mistake won't cost me the game."
Granderson's 19th homer, coming off David Carpenter, made it 4-0 in the eighth.
The Braves (76-78) fell two games under .500 for the first time since they were 2-4 on April 12, 2012.
"It's just one of those weeks, months, years that nothing's going our way," Freeman said. "It's kind of getting repetitive."
Mets: 2B Herrera left with a strained right quadriceps after he beat out an infield single in the sixth. Ruben Tejada came in to run and then played shortstop, making a strong defensive play to throw out Upton for the second out of the eighth.
Braves: RF Jason Heyward missed his second straight game with a bruised left thumb. ... C Evan Gattis, sidelined the last 10 games with strep throat and a kidney stone, grounded out as a pinch hitter in the fifth.
Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (8-6) tied the single-game record set by Houston's Jim Deshaies in 1986 by striking out his first eight batters in a no-decision at home against Miami last Monday.
Braves: RHP Ervin Santana (14-9) is 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in three starts against the Mets this year.