Braves top Mets after early assault on Santana

ATLANTA (Reuters) - The Atlanta Braves got the best of pitcher Johan Santana with three runs in the first inning to cruise to a 4-1 victory over the New York Mets on Monday.

Outfielder Rick Ankiel went 2-for-4 and sparked the onslaught with a two-run single in his first game at Turner Field since being acquired from the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

"It's good to get that first one out of the way," Ankiel told local media of his first hit with his new team. "Fortunately for me, there were runners on."

Braves veteran Chipper Jones added a solo home run against the left-hander in the seventh as Santana finished the night with 11 strikeouts from seven innings.

Having allowed 13 hits and seven runs to the St. Louis Cardinals last week, Santana rebounded strongly but was left in the shade by Atlanta's ace right-hander Tim Hudson.

Hudson improved to 12-5 for the season after tossing six innings and allowing just one run.

Closer Billy Wagner came on in the ninth to record his 25th save of the season and the Braves (60-45) were able to extend their National League East lead to three games, despite notching six losses from their recent nine-game road trip.

That poor stretch allowed the Philadelphia Phillies to draw near in the division race, but the Braves are a different outfit at home where they own the best record in baseball at 35-13.

"We're winning. We're in contention. There are butts in the seats," Jones said. "There's electricity in the air, and the team has responded well."

The only somber news for Atlanta has been an injury to All-Star second baseman Martin Prado, now on the 15-day disabled list after fracturing a finger on Friday.

The Mets have slid to seven games behind Atlanta in the NL East after losing three of their last four.

(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Ian Ransom)