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ATL@NYM: Prado ties the game with a two-run shot

NEW YORK -- Given the way last year concluded, the Braves were looking forward to the opportunity to generate some early momentum this season. But through their first two games, they have simply provided more reason to wonder if the offense will be any better than it was last year.

After squandering a number of late-inning scoring opportunities in their Opening Day loss, the Braves returned to Citi Field on Saturday afternoon and found themselves unable to overcome the damage Lucas Duda produced while powering the Mets to a 4-2 victory.

Duda's first career two-homer performance, combined with R.A. Dickey's six solid innings, proved enough for the Mets to lead the Braves toward their first 0-2 start since 2008. The Braves have lost seven straight games dating back to last year and have scored two runs or fewer in eight of their past 13 games.

"That's how the cards are falling," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "You can't really stress out. It's just two games."

Unfortunately for the Braves, these two games have felt similar to many of those that they played while squandering an 8 1/2-game Wild Card lead last September. The club has gone hitless in its first 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position this year and scoreless in seven innings against the Mets' bullpen.

"We just can't string anything together," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after watching Martin Prado's two-out, fifth-inning homer off Dickey stand as the only hit that prevented his club from beginning the season with consecutive shutout losses.

Along with watching his club's offensive struggles continue on Saturday, Gonzalez saw Jair Jurrjens need 102 pitches to complete 4 1/3 innings. The 26-year-old hurler was charged with three runs and seven hits. Most of the damage came courtesy of the solo home runs he surrendered to David Wright and Duda.

"It probably wasn't his best outing," Gonzalez said while kindly evaluating Jurrjens' performance.

Pitching in the coldest conditions -- game time temperature was announced as 55 degrees -- he has experienced this year, Jurrjens found little comfort with his offspeed pitches. At the same time, he struggled to generate the 89-90-mph fastballs that he was throwing once he gained some confidence in his previously ailing right knee during Spring Training.

Wright directed an 87-mph fastball over the right-center-field wall for a two-out solo home run in the first inning. Duda began his two-homer performance when he also hit an 87-mph fastball over the center-field wall with one out in the fourth inning.

"I was trying to do too much today," Jurrjens said. "I was not really pitching to contact and allowing my pitches to do the work. I was trying to be too perfect."

Jurrjens labored through a 25-pitch fourth inning and needed an additional 17 pitches to get through the only three batters that he faced in the fifth inning. Making his first relief appearance since making his Major League debut against the Braves on Sept. 24, 1996, Livan Hernandez entered with one out and runners on first and second base.

The 37-year-old veteran pitcher retired Duda and nearly escaped unscathed before Josh Thole gave the Mets the lead for good with a two-out sinking liner that landed just in front of right fielder Jason Heyward. Duda added to the lead with a solo shot off Chad Durbin the seventh inning.

"You've got to give them credit the way they swung the bat and the way they threw the ball," Heyward said. "They were really efficient. A big hit here or a big hit there would have been awesome. We had some hard-hit balls today in those situations. We put ourselves in situations to win the game."

Prado briefly tied the game with his two-out, two-run homer off Dickey in the fifth inning. The shot down the left-field line snapped the Braves' 23-inning scoreless streak, which had dated back to the third inning of last year's 13-inning season finale against the Phillies.

The Braves might have gained some early momentum if Michael Bourn had proven more efficient while running the bases in the first inning. The speedy center fielder was limited to a leadoff double despite the fact that Jason Bay misplayed the long fly ball that hit the left-field wall. Instead of scoring, he advanced to third base when Prado followed with a groundout.

Bourn then killed the first-inning threat when he hesitated before unsuccessfully trying to score on a passed ball with one out and Brian McCann at the plate. Replays showed Bourn's leg might have slid across the plate before Dickey received Thole's throw and applied the tag.

"Nobody is by no means panicking or worrying about [if we are on track]," Heyward said. "We're going to the plate, trying to put up a good [at-bat] and get a good pitch to hit. The first two games, it hasn't happened." Comments