Mets @ Braves Tuesday Game Preview

A series that looked a couple of month ago like it might mean something for both teams kicks off in Atlanta tonight with very little on the line. The New York Mets open a three-game set at 7:35 p.m., with Pedro Astacio facing Atlanta's Damian Moss. The series concludes Wednesday with a day-night doubleheader.

The Mets clinched the NL East title for the Braves Monday night by knocking off Philadelphia, 6-4, for their seventh straight win and moved 1½ games behind the Phillies for second place in the division. The sweep was the Mets' first of a four-game series since 1997.

But second place – and some sense of pride – are all the Mets have been playing for since their epic 15-game home losing streak ended any wild card hopes. They haven't lost since the streak ended, and the winning string has improved their record to 68-74. The Braves, on the other hand, have the major league's best record at 90-51.

Astacio has been very effective for the Mets against the Braves this season, winning twice with a no-decision in three starts. In 21 2/3 innings vs. Atlanta, Astacio has allowed seven earned runs. And after four straight poor starts, all losses, dropped him to 11-8, Astacio rebounded in his last start, beating the Marlins 11-3.

For his career, Astacio has had success against most of the Braves hitters, with only Gary Sheffield and Chipper Jones hitting over .300. Sheffield has owned Astacio, hitting .460 on 23-for-50, including three homers and 13 RBI.

The Mets will see the lefty Moss for the third time this season but the first since April 15. In two no-decisions, Moss has allowed six runs and nine hits in 12 innings.

Like most of the Atlanta starters, Moss has been outstanding, winning his last three starts to improve to 10-5 and is tied for ninth in the NL with teammate Kevin Millwood with a 3.06 ERA. Moss and Millwood have joined Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as double-digit winners, and all four are among the league ERA leaders.

The Braves lead the season series, 7-5, but the teams haven't played since late June. The Mets and Atlanta close the 2002 regular season with three games at Shea on Sept. 27-29.

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