The New York Mets have been the hottest team in baseball over the last three weeks, going from an afterthought to a playoff contender.
A three-game series in Atlanta, beginning Tuesday, gives them a chance to further improve their position as a postseason participant.
The Mets were 14 games behind the Braves on July 22. After splitting their next two games, they've since gone 15-2 and moved to within eight games of first-place Atlanta in the NL East. New York also entered Monday within one game of the second wild-card spot.
The series will be New York's final appearance at Atlanta's SunTrust Park this season. The rivals have two remaining series in New York, including the final three games of the season. The Braves lead the season series 6-4.
The series opener features Atlanta left-hander Max Fried (13-4, 4.11 ERA) against New York right-hander Zack Wheeler (9-6, 4.20).
Fried is 1-1 with a 2.49 ERA in eight career appearances (four starts) against the Mets, including 1-0 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts this season.
Wheeler is 6-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 12 career appearances against the Braves, going 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts this season.
Both teams continue to deal with bullpen issues. The Braves thought they fixed that weakness by acquiring three new arms at the trade deadline, but the problems continue to exist.
Shane Greene, brought in to be the closer, has allowed five runs in four innings, blown two saves and suffered a loss in five appearances since joining the Braves. Chris Martin has allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings and gave up a walk-off homer on Aug. 5.
Mark Melancon has been the best of the three, posting four scoreless appearances before yielding four runs in a third of an inning at Miami on Saturday.
In the finale of the four-game series in Miami, the Braves brought deposed closer Luke Jackson in to hold a one-run lead. He gave up three hits in the ninth inning, but hung on for the save.
"These guys have been under a little scrutiny or whatever," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "It's great how they picked each other up. We're going to need them. It's a good bullpen.
"Every facet of your game at some point, whether it's hitting, all that kind of stuff, it's not perfect all the time. These guys will keep fighting."
The Mets have tried to work around the poor season produced by closer Edwin Diaz, who has 24 saves but is 1-6 with a 5.60 ERA. He has allowed seven runs over his last six outings and tied his career high with a fifth blown save. He gave up two runs in the ninth inning of Sunday's 7-4 loss to Washington.
Lately, New York has turned to Seth Lugo. He has a 2.65 ERA this season, but since April 22, he has 59 strikeouts, only nine walks and a 1.80 ERA. He was the National League's Reliever of the Month for July.
Lugo is also capable of working more than one inning, although that generally leaves him unavailable to pitch the next day.
Another option is deposed reliever Jeurys Familia. He struck out the side against the Nationals on Sunday in his lone inning. But Familia has been on the injured list twice already with a right shoulder issue.
"I think you always have to be open for adjustments," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "The season is going to change. Guys are going to be effective at times, not effective at times. At this point, the sample sizes aren't that small anymore.
"I believe that guys have earned a right to do something until they haven't."
--Field Level Media
Mets visit Atlanta trying to gain more ground
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