MLB

Braves-Mets Preview

Steven Matz's early season results have almost mirrored that of the New York Mets. It's a trend they hope continues as the club tries to regroup offensively.

The left-hander attempts to win a fourth consecutive start Wednesday when the Mets look to avoid their first back-to-back losses in 20 games in the last of a three-game home series against the MLB-worst Atlanta Braves.

Matz (3-1, 3.86 ERA) had to overcome the worst performance of his first 13 big league outings, including three postseason appearances, after surrendering seven runs over a career-low 1 2/3 innings in a 10-3 home loss to Miami on April 11.

At that time, the Mets (16-9) looked nothing like the defending NL champions while getting off to a disappointing 2-5 start that included four straight defeats.

Matz, however, began to find a rhythm April 17 when he gave up three hits and struck out nine over seven innings in a 6-0 win at Cleveland. That effort began a three-start winning streak and a stretch in which New York won 12 of 14.

"That (first start's) definitely behind me now," the 24-year-old rookie told the league's official website. "I'm just looking forward now and trying to focus a little more each start and take the positives from each start."

Matz has certainly done that, giving up two runs over 6 1/3 innings in an 8-2 win at Atlanta on April 23 before scattering seven hits over six scoreless in Friday's 13-1 home win over San Francisco. He's been solid in two career starts - both on the road - against the Braves (7-19), giving up three runs over 11 1/3 innings in a pair of victories.

Daniel Castro has had success in the matchup with four hits - including a home run - in six at-bats. Freddie Freeman is 3 for 5 with a double versus Matz.

Freeman, A.J. Pierzynski and Mallex Smith had two hits apiece Tuesday when Atlanta improved to 3-3 on an eight-game road swing with a 3-0 victory. Smith, who hit his first home run, has gone 8 for 15 with three doubles on the trip.

It was only the sixth homer for the Braves, by far the fewest in the majors.

"I just tried to put a good swing on the ball," the rookie outfielder said.

Asdrubal Cabrera's fifth-inning single accounted for the only hit as New York fell on the cusp of losing their first series since April 11-13 to visiting Miami.

Jhoulys Chacin will try to keep them scuffling and build on his first victory after giving up two runs over five-plus innings in Thursday's 5-3 win at Boston. He'd also like to go deeper into this contest after failing to go six in his last three starts.

"Just want to keep going, keep giving my team the most that I can," he said.

Since posting a 1.89 ERA in his first three career starts against the Mets, Chacin (1-1, 3.27) is 0-2 with a 5.91 mark over his past two. He opposed Matz on April 23, surrendering four runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Michael Conforto went 2 for 3 off him in that contest. Curtis Granderson is 2 for 4 with two walks lifetime in the matchup, but Cabrera is hitless in six at-bats.

The Braves won't have Nick Markakis in the lineup after the right fielder left the team because of a family emergency. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said that Markakis has headed home to Maryland, and the veteran is expected back in time for Friday's home game against Arizona. Atlanta is off Thursday.

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