NL East Matchup

A shoulder injury appeared to have cost John Smoltz his expected turn in the rotation, but the weather has apparently provided him a speedy recovery to make his 2008 debut.

Those occurrences have produced the first matchup between the future Hall of Famer and Johan Santana on Sunday as the Atlanta Braves attempt to sweep a rain-shortened two-game set from the rival New York Mets.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made New York -155 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on New York -155 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Smoltz (14-8, 3.11 ERA last season) was bothered by right shoulder inflammation in spring training and began the season on the disabled list. He was expected to be activated Monday and start at Colorado, but with the forecast in Denver set for a low of 29 degrees and light rain, Braves manager Bobby Cox felt it would be wise to avoid exposing the right-hander's shoulder to those elements. Tom Glavine will now open the four-game set against the Rockies instead of facing his former teammates.

"It could be freezing (in Colorado)," Cox said. "That's no good for anybody, and it wouldn't be fair for Smoltz."

Smoltz was the originally scheduled starter for Sunday, but Friday night's rainout and Monday's forecast caused changes to the Braves' (2-3) rotation.

"I'm not afraid of any situation," Smoltz told the team's official Web site. "It's just that I've got to do what's best, and what's best for me is what's going to be best for the team. If this were July, it wouldn't even be an issue."

Smoltz, the only pitcher with at least 200 wins and 150 saves, is also looking to help the Braves build on Saturday's 11-5 win over New York. The eight-time All-Star went 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three home starts against the Mets (2-2) last season, but this time he'll start opposite Santana (1-0, 2.57), a fellow Cy Young Award winner looking to build on a gem in his team debut.

Santana allowed two runs - both on a home run - and three hits while striking out eight in seven innings of Monday's season-opening 7-2 win at Florida.

"Santana was outstanding (Monday)," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He was pounding the zone all day and I thought he threw even better than he looked, because he threw a lot of strikes and balls were kind of borderline that he didn't get. But he made pitches when he had to and it's nice to have the big horse start things for you."

Santana, signed to a $137.5 million, six-year contract after he was acquired from Minnesota this winter, is 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts against Atlanta. The lone loss came on June 12, 2002 - a 3-2 defeat at Minnesota in a game that saw Smoltz earn the save.

On Sunday, Santana will try to silence Atlanta's bats after they have produced a major league-high 37 runs through five games, while batting .296 with seven homers.

Chipper Jones has been a big part of that potent offense. The All-Star third baseman went 3-for-5 for a second consecutive game Saturday, giving him a .478 batting average (11-for-23) through four games.

Jones has excelled against New York, hitting .330 with 38 homers and 118 RBIs in 178 games. He's 3-for-4 with two walks against Santana.

The Mets are also off to a strong start offensively, batting .319 while generating 29 runs.

David Wright, though, saw his 20-game hitting streak - which dated back to last season - end Saturday with an 0-for-4 performance. However, he's still batting .353 (6-for-17) with three doubles, a homer and six RBIs in four games.

He is 10-for-42 (.238) with three homers and 18 strikeouts against Smoltz.

Here are some top trends for today's matchup:

-ATLANTA is 1-0 (+1.0 Units) against NY METS this season

-1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL this season . (Over=+1.0 Units)

-NY METS are 37-39 (-20.6 Units) against the money line against division opponents over the last 2 seasons.

-SANTANA is 9-13 (-13.8 Units) against the money line after a loss over the last 2 seasons. (Team's Record)

-ATLANTA is 165-164 (-28.6 Units) against the money line in all games over the last 3 seasons.

-SANTANA is 63-17 (+32.3 Units) against the money line when playing against a team with a losing record since 1997. (Team's Record)

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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