Lima to face Smoltz in finale
Atlanta (12-18) at New York Mets (21-9), 1:10 p.m.
The Mets can sweep the Braves and put them 10 games behind before either team has played its 31st games by winning Sunday afternoon. Imagine that.
They don't want to say it, some of the Mets don't even want to think it, but a 10-game difference is significant any time in a big-league season.
It's not that the Mets see themselves as special. They are in first place and playing well. But nothing more. It's what the Mets don't see in the Braves -- the ability and/or personnel that is likely to go on a typically-Braves run of, say, 17 victories in 22 games.
When they Mets and Braves meet Sunday, it will be their ninth game in 22 days. If the Braves win -- with John Smoltz pitching on short rest and Jose Lima debuting for the Mets -- they will have won four of the nine. Nothing wrong with that. But they will be eight games back. And they'd rather be closer.
NYM: Jose Lima (5-16, 6.99 ERA in 2005)
The last time Lima faced the Braves, he held them to one run in eight innings as a member of the Dodgers in 2004. The last time he pitched at Shea Stadium -- as a member of the Astros in 2001 -- he surrendered home runs to Edgardo Alfonzo and Jay Payton and allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings. He wasn't involved in the decision. Billy Wagner won the game in relief.
ATL: John Smoltz (1-2, 4.05 ERA)
Surprisingly, right-handed hitters are batting .328 against Smoltz, while lefties are batting just .226.
Player to watch
The Braves' change of pitcher cost Carlos Delgado a chance to face Jorge Sosa. He has seven home runs in 31 career plate appearances against Sosa. Now he will face Smoltz, whose stuff and stamina could be compromised by the lack of regular rest. Delgado has three home runs and four singles in 17 career at-bats against Smoltz.
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Tuesday: Mets (Pedro Martinez, 5-0, 2.72 ERA) at Phillies (Brett Myers, 2-1, 3.11 ERA), 7:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Mets (Tom Glavine, 4-2, 1.94 ERA) at Phillies (Cory Lidle, 3-3, 4.17 ERA), 7:05 p.m. ET
Thursday: Mets (Steve Trachsel, 2-2, 4.96 ERA) at Phillies (Gavin Floyd, 3-2, 6.16 ERA), 7.05 p.m. ET
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.