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Mets Look To Close NL East Gap Against Braves

(Sports Network) - Mike Pelfrey was unable to secure a spot on the National League All-Star roster despite putting up numbers worthy of consideration. The New York Mets hurler has an opportunity to avenge the snub when he goes head- to-head with Atlanta Braves ace Tim Hudson in a marquee mound matchup between the NL East's top two teams today at Citi Field.

Pelfrey was 10-2 with a 2.93 earned run average at the time of last weekend's All-Star selections, but still couldn't make a well-stocked 13-man staff for the Senior Circuit in Tuesday's Midsummer Classic. The right-hander is one of two double-digit winners, along with San Diego's Mat Latos, to be left off the NL squad.

The former first-round pick hasn't pitched like an All-Star as of late, however. After surrendering four runs and 12 hits in a 4 2/3-inning no- decision at Florida on June 30, Pelfrey was tagged for seven runs and nine hits before exiting with two out in the fifth inning of a loss to NL Central- leading Cincinnati Monday at Citi Field. The defeat was the first at home this season for the 26-year-old, who sports an excellent 6-1 record and a 2.83 ERA in 10 starts at his own park.

The Braves can attest to Pelfrey's credentials, as he's beaten them twice previously this season and allowed just two runs over a combined 12 2/3 innings in doing so. One of those wins took place at Citi Field on April 25, with Pelfrey firing five shutout frames in a rain-shortened 1-0 victory.

Hudson will be representing the first-place Braves in the upcoming All-Star Game, and it's a well-deserved honor for the veteran pitcher. The 34-year-old, who missed the majority of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, has put together an 8-4 record in 17 starts and ranks among the NL leaders with a 2.44 ERA.

The accomplished right-hander is just 2-3 over his last five assignments, although the Braves have scored two runs or less in each of those setbacks. That was the case this past Sunday, when Hudson worked eight innings against Florida but came out on the short end of a 3-2 decision.

Hudson has yet to face the Mets this season, but won his Citi Field debut last September after tossing six innings of two-run ball. The now three-time All- Star selection owns a 10-5 record with a 3.77 ERA over 16 career meetings with New York.

The Braves began this key three-game series with a three-game lead on the second-place Mets in the NL East standings, and were able to extend that margin by coming through with a 4-2 victory in last night's opener. The winning runs came via back-to-back solo homers by Melky Cabrera and Omar Infante with two out in the seventh inning.

With the score tied at 2-2, Cabrera hit the first pitch he saw from Mets starter R.A. Dickey (6-2) over the right-field wall. The right-hander's first pitch to Infante was taken for a called strike, but the next offering wound up bouncing off the top of the towering wall in left field for a 4-2 lead.

"Sometimes you make mistakes, and at this level, sometimes they pop them up and sometimes they hit them out," said Dickey, who was charged with four runs allowed (three earned) on nine hits over the first 6 2/3 innings. "Unfortunately [Friday] they hit them out."

Infante finished with four hits for the Braves, winners of three straight and six of their last eight contests. The All-Star utility man started at third base last night when Chipper Jones was scratched from the lineup due to back spasms. Jones is considered questionable for today's tilt.

The Mets threatened in the bottom of the eighth, placing runners at first and third with two out, but Atlanta reliever Takashi Saito escaped the jam by getting former Brave Jeff Francoeur to line out and end the inning. One-time Met Billy Wagner then threw a perfect ninth for his 20th save of the season.

Eric O'Flaherty (3-1) gained the win after getting the final out of the sixth in relief of Tommy Hanson, who gave up two runs and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings.

"[Hanson] had a good game and the bullpen [did as well]," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Friday's triumph was only Atlanta's second in six 2010 meetings with the Mets, who swept a three-game series between these rivals at home from April 23-25. The Braves did post a 7-2 record during the debut season of Citi Field in 2009, however.