Published June 17, 2013
| Sports Network
The Atlanta Braves will try to pad their lead in the National League East, as they entertain the New York Mets on Monday for the first of five straight games between the division rivals at Turner Field.
The Braves' 6 1/2-game cushion is the widest margin for any division leader in baseball, and they sit 13 1/2 games ahead of the Mets. The Braves have been awfully tough to beat at home, where they boast a major league-best 23-8 record and 2.32 ERA.
The most recent of those home victories came Sunday over San Francisco in a 3-0 final. Freddie Freeman had three hits and an RBI in support of starter Julio Teheran, who pitched six shutout innings and fanned eight.
Meanwhile, the Mets are coming off a thrilling 4-3 walkoff win over the Cubs on Sunday. Trailing 3-0 entering the bottom of the ninth, Marlon Byrd led off the frame with a solo homer and Kirk Nieuwenhuis later came through with a three-run blast off Carlos Marmol to end it. It was a much needed victory for the Mets, who had lost 10 of 12 before Sunday's dramatic finish.
"You don't forget about this," Byrd said. "You build off of it, remember how much fun it is coming in the clubhouse, the celebration. You try to build off it and keep winning games."
Toeing the rubber for New York in Monday's series opener is Dillon Gee, who is trying to keep his spot in the rotation as the organization's top prospect, Zack Wheeler, gets set to make his big league debut on Tuesday.
After struggling for much of the season, Gee has posted a 1.29 ERA with 26 strikeouts over a personal three-game winning streak. The right-hander allowed just one run over 6 2/3 innings in Wednesday's 5-1 win over St. Louis.
"He had a little tendinitis and pitched great," manager Terry Collins said. "Ultimately, it didn't get any worse than it was, but I thought he pitched very, very well. I think he's back."
Meanwhile, Braves starter Tim Hudson is winless in three June starts despite a 1.66 ERA in that span. He went 7 1/3 innings against San Diego on Tuesday and gave up three runs on five hits as Atlanta fell, 3-2.
"I feel like the last two or three times out, I'm right where I want to be," Hudson said. "I just don't have a whole lot to show for it from a wins standpoint. But if I just keep throwing the way I have been the last three or four starts, it's going to be a good year."
Atlanta has dominated the head-to-head series with the Mets, winning 15 of the last 19 meetings while belting 24 home runs in that span.