NL East Showdown

The Atlanta Braves are hoping their stopper can earn them a series victory against the NL East leaders.

Starter Tim Hudson looks to help the Braves bounce back from a frustrating defeat as he squares off against fellow 12-game winner John Maine and the New York Mets in the finale of a three-game series at Shea Stadium.

The Braves (60-54) lost 4-3 to the Mets (64-49) on Wednesday, falling into third place in the East, 4 1/2 games behind the Mets and one-half game behind Philadelphia. Atlanta blew a 3-1 lead and failed to score after loading the bases with no outs in the ninth when Jeff Francoeur grounded out and Andruw Jones followed by hitting into a game-ending double play.

"Set the table, just didn't clear it," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Nobody to kick but ourselves."

Andruw Jones, who was dropped to seventh in the lineup for the second time this year, has just one hit in his last 16 at-bats and is hitting only .215. The loss, which ended a three-game winning streak, was just Atlanta's fourth in 11 games against their division rivals.

However, the Braves are 10-2 in games Hudson (12-5, 2.95 ERA) has started following a loss. He is 6-2 with a 3.29 ERA in nine career starts against the Mets and threw eight scoreless innings in his only outing against them this season, a 7-3 win at Shea on April 20.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Atlanta -112 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 69% of bets for this game have been placed on Atlanta -112 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Hudson is 6-0 with a 2.01 ERA and no homers allowed in eight starts since losing to Boston on June 19, and the Braves have won each of those outings. The winning streak is his longest since he recorded seven straight victories July 22-Aug. 29, 2003.

Hudson has gone at least seven innings in each of his last five starts and didn't give up a run in Saturday's 6-4 win over Colorado. The win was his second straight scoreless seven-inning performance, including a win in Arizona on July 29 that snapped a two-game Braves losing streak.

"It's nice to go out there and win any game," he said. "Obviously it's important to try to put an end to a losing streak. Obviously. You want to go out there and set the tone, especially if you've dropped a couple tough ballgames like we have."

However, Hudson draws a tough opponent in Maine (12-6, 3.27), who is making his first career start against the Braves. He nearly missed them again before Brian Lawrence was skipped in the rotation, moving him up a day.

"I always miss the Braves and always seem to get the Phillies," he told the Mets' official team Web site before the switch in the rotation's schedule.

Maine is coming off his shortest start of the season, a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs in which he allowed six runs in 2 2-3 innings. The loss ended a two-start winning streak for Maine, who entered the game 6-1 with a 2.73 ERA in his previous eight starts.

"I couldn't find it and I kept pressing trying to find it. It just wasn't there. That was really the first time all year in a key situation where I hadn't been able to help myself and get out of it," he said.

Wednesday's victory was the fifth in seven games for the Mets. Closer Billy Wagner worked out of the bases-loaded jam for his 350th career save and 26th in 27 chances this season. Wagner, who extended his scoreless streak to 21 innings, has 24 saves in 26 career opportunities against Atlanta and owns a 2.63 ERA in 50 lifetime appearances against the Braves.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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