Streaking Braves play host to Mets

With a playoff berth already in the fold, the Atlanta Braves still have their sights set on winning the National League East.

A favorable schedule could get the Braves where they want to be.

Atlanta will open a three-game series versus the New York Mets tonight at Turner Field and sits four games behind the Washington Nationals for the division lead with six to play.

The Braves have won five in a row and 10 of 12, and completed a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins with Thursday's 6-2 victory behind starter Tommy Hanson and a strong bullpen. Hanson allowed two runs -- one earned -- and six hits in 5 1/3 innings for the win, while Luis Avilan, Jonny Venters and Cristhian Martinez held the Marlins scoreless the rest of the way.

Dan Uggla went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI, and Andrelton Simmons recorded two hits, an RBI and a run scored.

"It definitely feels good to get a couple of runs and drive in a few and get some knocks," said Uggla. "Like I said about three weeks, a month ago, I'm back, I'm not searching for (my swing). It's me and I'm going to keep doing what I can do from here on out."

Braves center Michael Bourn is anticipating a return soon and an MRI on his left thumb revealed a slight sprain. Bourn hasn't played since last Saturday and is batting .274 with nine homers and 56 RBI.

"Once the swelling has gone out of it, it has felt better," Bourn said. "They just did not want me to rush back out there and have any setbacks."

In what could be his final start before the playoffs, Tim Hudson takes the mound for the Braves tonight and has been riding a hot streak since July. In his last 15 starts, Hudson is 10-2 with a 3.39 earned run average and posted his second win in a row in Sunday's 2-1 decision at Philadelphia.

Hudson allowed one unearned run and two hits in 7 1/3 innings, pushing his season numbers to 16-6 in 27 starts with a 3.61 earned run average. The veteran right-hander, who is 8-4 in 14 home starts, did not record a decision against the Mets back on July 13, when he was tagged for four runs and eight hits in four innings of a 7-5 win.

He is 15-9 with a 3.59 ERA in 26 career starts against the Mets.

New York would enjoy nothing more than to spoil Atlanta's chances of moving closer to a division title and has won two straight and six of seven games.

The Mets took a four-game set from Pittsburgh and are coming off Thursday's 6-5 win in which David Wright and Ike Davis both homered. R.A. Dickey won his 20th game of the season, struck out 13 batters and allowed three runs in 7 2/3 innings of work.

"To win 20 games is difficult. It's been a real grind," Dickey said. "It's a big exhale."

Dickey's 222 strikeouts are the most in a single season for the Mets since David Cone struck out 214 in 1992. He matched Frank Viola (20 in 1990) for the most wins in a season for the Mets and is one behind Washington's Gio Gonzalez for the major league lead.

Bobby Parnell got the final two outs of the game for his fifth save.

New York also will visit Miami for three games on its season-ending six-game road swing.

Jon Niese has won back-to-back starts since losing three straight outings and will toe the rubber again tonight for the Mets. Niese defeated Miami his previous time out last Friday in a 7-3 victory and allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings of work.

Niese is 12-9 in 29 starts with a 3.49 ERA and 2-1 in three starts versus the Braves this season. In 11 career matchups -- all starts -- with Atlanta, the left-handed Niese is 5-3 with a 3.15 ERA.

The Mets are only 5-10 against the Braves this season and 1-5 at Turner Field.

Atlanta has won 10 of the previous 11 meetings between the NL East foes.