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Another pitcher to make season debut in Mets-Braves series

ATLANTA -- For the fourth time in four days, a pitcher will make his first start of the season when the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets meet Sunday in the series finale at SunTrust Park.

New York will send right-hander Seth Lugo to the mound for his season debut. He will be opposed by Atlanta left-hander Jaime Garcia (2-4, 3.21), who has been the most consistent starter for the Braves this season.

Already in this series, Atlanta's Sean Newcomb and Matt Wisler and New York's Steven Matz have made their first big-league start of the season. Newcomb made his major league debut on Saturday.

Lugo made 17 appearances, eight of them starts, for the Mets in 2016. He went 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA and had 45 strikeouts and 21 walks in 64 innings.

Lugo started the season on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. He made four rehab starts and went 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA. In his last rehab start on June 3, Lugo allowed one run and struck out eight in seven innings.

Lugo made one start against Atlanta last season. He won the game, allowing two runs and striking out out five in seven innings on Sept. 11.

Now that Lugo, Matz and Yoenis Cespedes have returned, the Mets are starting to resemble the team that was expected to contend for the National League East title.

"This is what we thought we were going to get with the guys we thought we were going to have," manager Terry Collins said. "Unfortunately, we haven't and we've had to play without them. We have a lot left. Now we have to make sure we work very, very hard to make sure Steven Matz goes out there every five or six days and Yoenis Cespedes finishes the season healthy."

Cespedes hit a grand slam on Saturday in his return, but he is expected to only play every other day as he begins his return.

"Right now, he's going to play a game, he's going to be off a day, then he's probably going to play a couple (of games), then get another day off," Collins said. "We'll ween him back into this thing."

Garcia dropped a 3-1 decision to the Phillies in his last start on June 6. He pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed three run and eight hits with four strikeouts. His big mistake was allowing a two-run homer to Howie Kendrick. In his last four starts, Garcia has produced a 1.23 ERA.

"It was a great job," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "I think he hung one to Kendrick. It wasn't like they were banging him around."

First baseman Matt Adams, who was Garcia's teammate in St. Louis, said, "It just seems like he's in control out there and he's trusting his stuff. He's letting his pitches move the way they're supposed to move and keeping hitters off balance."

In eight career starts against the Mets, Garcia is 2-4 with a 3.06 ERA. His only appearance against New York this year came April 6 when he lost after allowing four runs in six innings.

Snitker would like to see his team's offense start rolling again. They were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and are hitting .138 (4-for-29) in that situation in the last 12 games.

"We couldn't get anything going offensively either game," Snitker said. "We'll put that behind us, come out tomorrow and try to push the series."

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