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Dickey vs. Lowe As Mets Face Braves

(Sports Network) - A return home for the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves was enough to get their offense back on track. For the visiting New York Mets, not so much.

Atlanta hopes to pick up its second straight victory on its seven-game homestand while dealing New York a third straight loss in this evening's middle portion of a three-game series at Turner Field.

The Braves batted just .190 over a recently-completed 3-6 road trip, but broke out for 11 hits in last night's 4-1 victory. Starting pitcher Tim Hudson then did his job, holding the Mets to a run over six innings.

Rick Ankiel, acquired from the Royals before the trade deadline, notched his first hit with the Braves -- a two-run single in the first inning -- and Chipper Jones homered in the seventh inning for his first long ball since July 15.

"I don't care how old you are, you can use a confidence boost," said Jones of his eighth homer of the season. "It was a good feeling."

The victory pushed Atlanta's lead over idle Philadelphia in the division to three games, while the Mets fell 7 1/2 games back of the Braves. Atlanta also improved its MLB-best home record to 35-13, while New York lost on the road for the 16th time in 21 games.

The Braves were without All-Star second baseman Martin Prado, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list after suffering a broken right pinkie on Friday.

Carlos Beltran drove in New York's lone run with a fifth-inning double, while Johan Santana allowed four runs with a season-high 11 strikeouts over seven innings.

"It was a tough one," said Santana about the loss. "I came here and I knew that I had to step up. I didn't do my job, because to get a win here would put us closer to these guys. Instead it is the opposite. I tried to do my best but it didn't work out."

New York has lost three of its last four overall and has been outscored 18-2 over its last two games.

The Mets might like their chances tonight as long as knuckleballer R.A. Dickey can continue his surprising run. The 35-year-old is 7-4 with an excellent 2.32 earned run average on the season and snapped a four-decision losing streak on Thursday versus St. Louis.

Dickey allowed just four hits over 8 1/3 scoreless innings in that game and hasn't allowed a run in his last two starts. He picked up his first victory since June 23.

The right-hander faced the Braves for the first time as a starter on July 9 following a pair of previous relief outings. Dickey took the loss, however, yielding four runs -- three earned -- over 6 2/3 frames.

The Braves counter with Derek Lowe, who is just 1-4 with a 5.03 ERA over his last six starts. He lost to Washington on Thursday after getting charged with four runs on five hits over five innings of work.

The right-hander is 10-9 with a 4.58 ERA this year and 3-5 with a pair of saves and 6.61 ERA in 15 lifetime meetings with the Mets, nine of those starts. Lowe, 27, has lost both starts to New York in 2010 despite a 3.65 ERA.

The Braves have beaten the Mets in 12 of the last 17 overall meetings and are 16-5 at home versus them since the 2008 season.