Series preview: Mets vs. Braves

Getty Images

Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens and Mike Minor (l to r) face the Mets in the opening series, at Citi Field.

METS (77-85, fourth place/NL East) vs. ATLANTA BRAVES (89-73, second place/NL East)

Thursday: LHP Johan Santana (DNP) vs. RHP Tommy Hanson (11-7, 3.60), 1:10 p.m. ET

Saturday: RHP R.A. Dickey (8-13, 3.28) vs. RHP Jair Jurrjens (13-6, 2.96), 1:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: LHP Jon Niese (11-11, 4.40) vs. LHP Mike Minor (5-3, 4.14), 1:10 p.m. ET

Braves short hops

Chipper Jones, 40, announced during spring training his intention to retire after the season. He then underwent March 26 surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, the same procedure Tim Byrdak required with the Mets.

The Braves responded to Jones’ injury, which may only sideline him for the regular season’s first road trip, by acquiring 24-year-old third baseman Juan Francisco from the Reds. Francisco made his Grapefruit League debut with his new team Monday, against the Mets. Atlanta sent expendable right-handed reliever J.J. Hoover to Cincinnati. The lefty-hitting Francisco was boxed out with the Reds by Scott Rolen. Francisco has a .284 average with five homers and 29 RBIs in 169 career major league at-bats. One of the long balls was a monstrous 502-foot shot last Sept. 12 off the Cubs’ Rodrigo Lopez. It was the second-longest homer in Great American Ball Park history, trailing only a 535-foot homer by Adam Dunn in 2004.

Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire

Tyler Pastornicky will make his major league debut as Braves shortstop Thursday.

Even with the Francisco acquisition, Martin Prado still should man third base against lefties, with southpaw-killer Matt Diaz (.329 career average versus lefties) positioned in left field. The Mets start two left-handers in the series. Still, Francisco’s arrival allows Prado to primarily play left field in Jones’ absence.

• After struggling for the first two-plus weeks of spring training, 22-year-old Tyler Pastornicky started producing and beat out fellow prospect Andrelton Simmons for the shortstop job. The strong-armed Pastornicky hit a combined .314 with seven homers and 45 RBIs in 117 games between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett last season. He arrived in the shortstop swap that sent Yunel Escobar to the Toronto Blue Jays for Alex Gonzalez in July 2010. His father, Cliff Pastornicky, played 10 games for the Kansas City Royals at third base in 1983. Simmons had not played above Class A.

Livan Hernandez -- released by the Houston Astros late in spring training after a Grapefruit League outing in which he surrendered eight runs (four earned) in 3 2/3 innings against the Mets, which included a grand slam by David Wright -- quickly landed with the Braves. He will work as a long reliever and spot starter. That frees Kris Medlen to work in more integral spots rather than be held back as a long man.

• At 25 years old, Tommy Hanson becomes the youngest Opening Day starter for the Braves since John Smoltz at 23 in 1991. Hanson suffered a concussion in a single-car accident when he reportedly blew a tire and went off the road en route to the first spring-training workout. He did not make his first official start until March 16.

• 2011 All-Star Jair Jurrjens has missed the past two Septembers with knee injuries. He looked awful in his first four Grapefruit League appearances, allowing 16 runs (15 earned) in 13 1/3 innings. Since then, he has allowed a combined two runs and eight hits in 13 innings spanning two starts. However, both of those outings came against meager Houston Astros split squads, albeit with Carlos Lee in the latter game.

• Left-hander Mike Minor had the best production of any Braves pitcher during spring training. He had four straight scoreless outings until the Mets ended that streak March 23 at Disney. The Mets wanted Minor in trade talks with Atlanta regarding Carlos Beltran last July, but the Braves were uninterested in trading the 24-year-old southpaw.

• Center fielder Michael Bourn, who arrived in a trade with the Astros last July 31 for four players, including Jordan Schafer, is due to be a free agent after the season. He led the National league with 61 steals last season.

• After his production plummeted as a sophomore, right fielder Jason Heyward has worked since January with Jones and new hitting coach Greg Walker to rediscover his swing. Heyward developed bad habits last season while dealing with a strained shoulder. His batting average dropped 50 points, to .227, in 2011. His on-base percentage dropped from .393 as a rookie to .319 last year.

• Right-hander Tim Hudson is due back as soon as late April after undergoing offseason back surgery to address a herniated disc. In his absence, Randall Delgado beat out Julio Teheran for a spot in the rotation, although both young prospects struggled during spring training.

• Reliever Cristhian Martinez was charged with DUI on Monday morning near Atlanta, Gwinnett County police spokesman Corporal Jake Smith told the Journal-Constitution.

• First baseman Freddie Freeman appears poised for a monster year after hitting .282 with 21 homers and 76 RBIs in 571 at-bats during his rookie season. The lefty-hitting Freeman showed significant power to the left side of the field during spring training.

• Left-hander Jonny Venters, who had a National League-leading 85 appearances, and closer Craig Kimbrel, who accumulated 46 saves and made 79 appearances last season, have been lightly used during spring training. In fact, Venters was idle for 10 days with arm soreness before returning March 29. Last year, Kimbrel set the major league rookie saves record, previously held by Texas’ Neftali Feliz, who had 40 in 2010. Venters and Eric O’Flaherty form a dynamic one-two attack against lefty batters out of the bullpen. The duo combined to hold opposing batters to a .163 average last season, with two homers in 166 at-bats.

• The Braves signed right-hander Chad Durbin to round out the bullpen on the eve of the season. Durbin, 34, had been released by the Nationals despite posting a 2.35 ERA in 10 Grapefruit League appearances. The addition bumped left-hander Yohan Flande to the minors.

• Overshadowed by the Boston Red Sox’s late freefall, Atlanta had its own 2011 collapse. The Braves held a 10½-game lead on St. Louis for the wild card in late August.


Santana vs. Braves (career: 3-6, 2.28 ERA)

Matt Diaz .500, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 33 PA

Michael Bourn .455, 1 K, 12 PA

Jack Wilson .333, 9 PA

Brian McCann .276, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K, 30 PA

Martin Prado .150, 2 K, 21 PA

Jason Heyward .125, 1 BB, 2 K, 9 PA

Dan Uggla .053, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 10 K, 20 PA

David Ross .000, 2 BB, 4 K, 8 PA

Eric Hinske .000, 2 K, 5 PA

Dickey vs. Braves (career: 1-4, 4.01 ERA)

Jose Constanza .500, 1 RBI, 3 PA

Freddie Freeman .333, 2 BB, 1 K, 11 PA

Jason Heyward .250, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K, 15 PA

Michael Bourn .238, 3 RBI, 4 K, 23 PA

Brian McCann .214, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 1 K, 19 PA

Eric Hinske .150, 3 BB, 2 K, 23 PA

Martin Prado .118, 1 BB, 2 K, 18 PA

Dan Uggla .000, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K, 23 PA

Jack Wilson .000, 3 K, 4 PA

David Ross .000, 1 K, 3 PA

Matt Diaz .000, 1 K, 2 PA

Niese vs. Braves (career: 3-2, 3.55 ERA)

Michael Bourn .571, 2 BB, 9 PA

Jason Heyward .500, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 9 PA

David Ross .462, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 14 PA

Freddie Freeman .429, 1 RBI, 3 K, 7 PA

Jose Constanza .333, 1 RBI, 3 PA

Dan Uggla .318, 3 RBI, 5 K, 22 PA

Martin Prado .263, 1 BB, 1 K, 20 PA

Matt Diaz .125, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 10 PA

Brian McCann .000, 3 K, 6 PA

Eric Hinske .000, 2 K, 4 PA

Hanson vs. Mets (career: 3-3, 3.69 ERA)

Justin Turner .667, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K, 3 PA

Daniel Murphy .600, 1 K, 5 PA

Lucas Duda .500, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K, 6 PA

Josh Thole .438, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 17 PA

Ronny Cedeno .400, 1 K, 5 PA

Jason Bay .333, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K, 11 PA

Ike Davis .200, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K, 12 PA

Andres Torres .200, 1 K, 5 PA

David Wright .111, 2 RBI, 8 K, 19 PA

Ruben Tejada .000, 6 PA

Jurrjens vs. Mets (career: 8-4, 2.94 ERA)

Andres Torres .500, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 5 PA

Ronny Cedeno .333, 3 PA

Justin Turner .333, 1 K, 3 PA

Daniel Murphy .304, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 25 PA

Josh Thole .273, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 12 PA

Ruben Tejada .250, 1 BB, 6 PA

David Wright .207, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K, 31 PA

Jason Bay .200, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, 18 PA

Ike Davis .000, 1 BB, 4 K, 8 PA

Lucas Duda .000, 1 RBI, 3 PA

Scott Hairston .000, 1 K, 3 PA

Mike Nickeas .000, 1 BB, 2 PA

Minor vs. Mets (career: 2-0, 6.75 ERA)

Lucas Duda .667, 3 PA

Jason Bay .500, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 8 PA

Justin Turner .429, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 9 PA

Ruben Tejada .286, 1 K, 7 PA

Scott Hairston .200, 1 K, 5 PA

David Wright .125, 1 BB, 3 K, 9 PA

Daniel Murphy .000, 1 RBI, 1 K, 3 PA

Ike Davis .000, 1 BB, 2 K, 3 PA

Ronny Cedeno .000, 1 BB, 2 PA

Last series results

Mets won, 2-1, at Turner Field, Sept. 16-18, 2011 (AP game recaps)

Mets 12, Braves 2: David Wright drove in five runs with two homers as the Mets pounded the Braves. Atlanta leads St. Louis by only 3½ games in the NL wild-card race with 11 games remaining. The Cardinals gained ground by beating the Phillies. The Mets matched their season high with 20 hits and ended a six-game losing streak. Chris Capuano (11-12) gave up two runs on six hits in five innings. Lowe (9-15) gave up nine hits and six runs in only 2 1/3 innings while losing his third straight start.

Braves 1, Mets 0: Tim Hudson struck out 10 batters to guide Atlanta over New York, shoring up the Braves' lead in the wild-card race. Hudson (15-10) held the Mets scoreless over his eight innings. Closer Craig Kimbrel struck out all three batters in the ninth to notch his 45th save of the season. Chipper Jones' RBI single in the eighth inning was enough for the Braves, who increased their wild-card lead to 4½ games. R.A. Dickey (8-13) walked a season-worst six batters in 7 2/3 innings for the Mets, who have lost seven of eight.

Mets 7, Braves 5: Ruben Tejada had four RBIs, Lucas Duda homered off Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning and New York slowed the Braves' wild-card bid with a walk-filled victory. Atlanta lost two of three to the Mets, who arrived with a six-game losing streak. New York went 6-4 at Atlanta this year, its first winning record at Turner Field since 2008. After pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino's bases-loaded walk in the eighth against Jonny Venters (6-2) tied it at 5, Tejada singled to put the Mets ahead for good. Duda's homer was just the second this year off Kimbrel, the NL saves leader. Tim Byrdak (2-0) won despite allowing a go-ahead single in the seventh to Freddie Freeman, who had been on an 0-for-15 slide.