Sheffield, Mets rough up Lowe in comeback win vs. Braves

NEW YORK -- When the Atlanta Braves handed Derek Lowe a four-run lead against an injury-depleted team, they figured they were in pretty good shape.

Turns out, those New York Mets backups had a big surprise in store.

Gary Sheffield doubled twice in an eight-run fourth inning and New York battered Lowe, rebounding from an early deficit for a 9-4 victory over the Braves on Tuesday night.

"It's tough. You've got a 4-0 lead with your ace on the hill, the farthest thing from your thought process is what happened there in the fourth," Atlanta's Chipper Jones said. "They hit some balls hard and they hit some balls not so hard that found holes."

Luis Castillo also had two hits and two RBIs during the big outburst against Lowe (12-8), who was 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA in his previous seven starts. The Mets reeled off 10 hits in the fourth, setting a franchise record for one inning.

"That was a lot of fun," Jeff Francoeur said. "You just keep pounding balls into the gap. The one thing you don't want to do is hit a home run. That's a rally-killer."

All that offense came in support of Oliver Perez (3-3), who won for the first time in seven starts since July 8 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The erratic lefty gave up a three-run homer to Matt Diaz and a solo shot to Adam LaRoche but walked only one in five innings.

Perez again was bothered by tenderness in his right knee, a problem that landed him on the disabled list from May 3 to July 8.

"I was feeling it a little bit as I was trying to finish that [fifth] inning," Perez said. "I want to see how I feel tomorrow."

Still missing injured stars Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright, the Mets matched a season high for hits (17) -- without hitting a home run. Sheffield, Castillo and Francoeur each had three.

Elmer Dessens, Pedro Feliciano and Brian Stokes combined for four innings of scoreless relief.

"The fact of the matter is, they never stopped playing," Atlanta outfielder Garret Anderson said.

The Braves, who had won nine of 12, fell 6½ games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East and four back of the Colorado Rockies in the wild-card race.

First baseman Martin Prado was removed in the first inning with a severe headache and replaced by LaRoche. Prado, who has complained of headaches and dizziness since leaving Saturday's game against Philadelphia, will return to Atlanta on Wednesday for more tests.

"He was good to go. He had a great infield. Fouled a ball off and it hit him again," manager Bobby Cox said.

Lowe appeared to be in control until he was struck on the pinky of his glove hand by Angel Pagan's infield single to start the fourth. The right-hander was checked by Cox and a trainer before throwing one practice pitch and remaining in the game.

He gave up hits to eight of his next nine batters, including a two-strike single to Perez.

"That had nothing to do with it," Lowe said, referring to his pinkie. "I was under every single ball flat."

Sheffield laced a two-run double to right-center that cut it to 4-2. Francoeur hit an RBI double, Fernando Tatis followed with a tying single and Anderson Hernandez's single put New York in front.

Pagan added a run-scoring groundout before Castillo chased Lowe with a two-run single that made it 8-4. Kris Medlen relieved and allowed another ringing double by Sheffield before retiring the side.

The Mets batted for 29 minutes. It was their most runs in an inning since they also scored eight in the third on Aug. 13, 2008, at Washington.

"You put together an inning like that, you keep the pitcher out there 20 to 30 minutes, it gets tough for him to make certain pitches," Sheffield said.

Lowe yielded 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings without a walk or strikeout. It was the first time he allowed eight runs in an inning.

"I couldn't stop it. When you have non-competitive stuff, it's pretty tough to stop it," Lowe said. "Even when it was hit on the ground, it's hit hard."

Francoeur doubled again in the seventh and scored on Omir Santos' RBI grounder.

Game notes
Braves right-hander Tim Hudson, recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery, was slated to pitch for Triple-A Gwinnett, his fifth minor league rehab start. ... Lowe threw 41 pitches in the first three innings and then needed 41 to get two outs in the fourth. ... Perez improved to 7-4 in 16 starts against Atlanta.