(Sports Network) - With both the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets' respective offenses not carrying much momentum, tonight's opener of a three-game series between the clubs could come down to pitching.
Atlanta might surprisingly have the edge, as Tim Hudson goes for a third straight win while New York starter Johan Santana will be looking to rebound from one of his worst starts of the season Monday at Turner Field.
The first-place Braves have lost two straight and five of their last seven games to see their edge over the second-place Phillies fall to 2 1/2 games in the National League East. The Mets are 6 1/2 games off the pace, so this figures to be a big series and homestand for the club.
New York will also visit Philadelphia for three games following this set as it looks to make up ground in the division.
To do that, the Mets will need Santana to shake off his disastrous start versus the Cardinals last Wednesday. The former Cy Young Award winner had gone 3-0 with a 0.71 earned run average in five July starts before closing the month by yielding seven runs on a season-high 13 hits over 5 2/3 innings. Santana did get a no-decision in his team's extra-inning loss despite posting his worst start since giving up 10 runs in a loss to the Phillies on May 2.
The 31-year-old lefty is 8-5 with a 3.11 ERA this year and 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts versus the Braves. In 10 career starts against the franchise, he is 2-5 with a 2.01 ERA.
Hudson, meanwhile, has won consecutive outings for the first time since a three-start win streak from May 11-21 and has yielded just one run over his current unbeaten stretch.
The right-hander notched seven scoreless innings versus San Diego on July 22 before holding Washington to a run on seven hits over 7 2/3 frames on Wednesday. He improved to 11-5 with a 2.40 ERA on the season.
Hudson, 35, faced the Mets just once previously this season, earning a victory on July 10 with seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball. He is 11-5 with a 3.54 ERA in his career versus New York.
Hudson will hope his team's offense can get on track after notching just four hits in a 2-1 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. Alex Gonzalez snapped an 0-for-18 drought with a solo homer in the second inning for Atlanta, his first home run since being acquired in a trade with Toronto on July 14.
Atlanta is expected to decide today if it is going to place second baseman Martin Prado on the disabled list. The All-Star suffered a fractured right pinky on Friday.
"It doesn't feel good," Prado told Atlanta's website. "It's just sore, and I can't do anything right now. Whatever their decision is, I can't control that."
New York's offense didn't fare much better in its Sunday finale with the last- place Arizona Diamondbacks. The Mets posted just five hits in a 14-1 pounding, with Ike Davis' sacrifice fly in the fourth inning accounting for the only run.
"This team had our number all year," Mets outfielder Jeff Francoeur said of Arizona. "We got blown out by them."
The loss gave the Mets a split of a six-game homestand and dropped them to just 5-12 since the All-Star break.
Though New York has won four of six this year with Atlanta, the Braves have beaten the Mets in 11 of the last 16 overall meetings and are 15-5 at home versus them since the 2008 season.