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Morning Briefing: Nationals can't take advantage of Mets' poor homestand

NEW YORK --

FIRST PITCH: At least the Washington Nationals seem incapable of taking advantage.

The New York Mets completed a 3-6 homestand with a loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday. Still, the Amazin’s maintained a 6 ½-game lead atop the National League East and watched their magic number dip to five thanks to the Nats’ 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

The Mets now head to Cincinnati and then Philadelphia, aiming to wrap up the division before an Oct. 2-4 season-ending showdown against the Nats at Citi Field.

“It’s always good when that magic number shrinks,” captain David Wright said after the team’s latest loss. “Ultimately we’d like to play better and have that magic number shrink because we’re winning, and not have to have it shrink because they’re losing.

“I think this is our first losing homestand all year. We’ve played well at home. Lately we’ve played really well on the road. So hopefully we continue to be those road warriors.”

Steven Matz (4-0, 1.80 ERA) opposes Reds right-hander Josh Smith (0-2, 7.71) in Thursday’s 7:10 p.m. ET series opener in Cincinnati. The Mets also will pitch Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom during that four-game series -- albeit Harvey for an abbreviated period.

“It’s a poor homestand, but we’ve got some of those young horses going in Cincinnati,” Wright said. “So, hopefully, we can go win a series and get that much closer.”

The Mets scored 23 runs during the nine-game homestand -- an average of 2.6 runs per game.

Manager Terry Collins hopes heading to hitter-friendly ballparks in Cincinnati and Philadelphia will revive the Mets’ offense. That proved to be the case when the Amazin’s had consecutive series at Colorado and Philadelphia in late August and scored 73 runs in seven games.

“These are two good-hitting parks,” Collins said. “We seem to swing pretty good in some of these parks that are a little more hitter-friendly. Hopefully we get it going.”

As for summing up losing two of three to the Braves, Collins added late Wednesday: “This is the big leagues. And you can’t take anybody for granted. You’ve got to go play, and play well. Nobody rolls over in this league.

“We’re going to get on the plane tonight, catch our breath, get up tomorrow and go play as hard as we can against Cincinnati.”

THURSDAY’S NEWS REPORTS:

  • Freddie Freeman came off the bench to produce five RBIs, including a tiebreaking three-run homer in the ninth against Jeurys Familia, as the Braves beat the Mets, 6-3, in Wednesday’s rubber game at Citi Field. Wright, who tied the score at 3 in the seventh with an RBI single, uttered a profanity to Freeman upon arriving at first base. However, Wright insisted postgame that it was playful banter. Bartolo Colon retired the first 14 batters he faced. He departed with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and the Mets leading 2-0. Addison Reed allowed all three inherited runners to score. Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday and at MLB.com.

  • The Mets remembered the late Yogi Berra with a moment of silence before Wednesday’s game. The team will not wear a patch. Read more on Berra’s passing from columnist Tara Sullivan in the Record and from news stories in the Times, Post, Daily News, Newsday, Journal and at MLB.com.

  • Juan Uribe had a pinch-hit single in the ninth on Wednesday in his first action since suffering a deep chest bruise diving for a groundball on Sunday. Reliever Carlos Torres was unavailable because his balky left calf issue has compromised his ability to field his position. He is due to test the leg on Thursday in Cincinnati by doing fielding drills.

  • Read more on the Mets’ recent offensive struggles in Newsday.

  • From the bloggers … Faith and Fear remembers Berra as both lucky and good.

BIRTHDAYS: Hubie Brooks turns 59. ... Bernard Gilkey is 49.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

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