Mets, Braves ride wave of momentum into weekend series

( – Two teams off to terrific starts square off on Friday
when the Atlanta Braves welcome the New York Mets to Turner Field for the
start of a three-game series.

After going into full rebuild mode this offseason, including sending closer
Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. out to San Diego on the eve of the season,
Atlanta rolled into Miami and swept the upstart Marlins.

Atlanta completed the trifecta on Wednesday, as A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run
homer in the seventh inning and the Braves eked out a 2-0 win.

“I feel we have the right mindset on this team to continue the season going
forward,” Pierzynski said.

Pierzynski made his Atlanta debut, as did Shelby Miller, who was acquired in
the offseason trade that sent outfielder Jason Heyward to St. Louis. Miller
pitched the first five innings for the Braves, limiting the Marlins to four
hits. He struck out four and walked two.

“Obviously I wanted to be a little bit more efficient than five innings, but
they put together some good at-bats that led to my pitch count to get up,”
Miller said.

Atlanta surrendered just three runs in the set, as it swept an opening
series for the first time since 2007.

Now, they’ll give the ball to another new face in lefty Eric Stults, who
signed as a free agent this winter after spending the last three seasons with
the Padres.

After struggling through the first four months of last season, Stults made
some mechanical adjustments that helped him post a 2.74 ERA over his final 11
starts for San Diego. Overall, he was 8-7 with a 4.30 ERA.

As for New York, it comes into Dixie riding a wave of momentum after taking
two of three from the Washington Nationals that culminated with a win in
Thursday’s rubber match, a game that featured the return of ace Matt Harvey.

In his first regular-season start after Tommy John surgery, Harvey tossed six
scoreless innings, allowed just four hits, struck out nine and walked one in
the Mets’ 6-3 win.

“He’s such an impressive guy to be around,” said New York manager Terry
Collins of Harvey. “Nothing he does surprises you.”

Harvey (1-0) threw 91 pitches, striking out Washington slugger Bryce Harper
three times, and outdueled Stephen Strasburg in a rare battle of aces in the
third game of the season. Harvey last pitched in a game on Aug. 24, 2013, one
day before learning he had a slight tear of the UCL ligament in his pitching

“It’s been long,” Harvey said. “It took a while, but I’m glad I’m finally

New York hopes for similar results from lefty Jon Niese, who went 9-11 with a
3.40 ERA in 30 starts last season. However he did pitch to a 2.61 ERA in three
starts against the Braves, but has traditionally struggled against them,
posting a 4.96 ERA in six starts against them.

New York beat Atlanta in 10 of 19 meetings last season.