When the Braves and the Mets meet in Sunday's series finale, two Georgians take the hill hoping to forget their last outings in their own backyard. David Hale and Zack Wheeler both had season-worst outings in early April at Turner Field.
Hale was skipped the last time through the rotation, so 10 days have gone by since he suffered his first Major League loss. Given the long layoff, the Marietta native is eager to get back on the mound.
"I don't like sitting around watching," Hale said. "I love baseball, but I'd rather be playing it. I completely understood their decision. Julio [Teheran] goes out the next day and throws a three-hit shutout. So there's no reason to argue with their decision. I've just got to do my work and hopefully I'll get myself out of that fifth spot someday."
The Mets treated Hale to the worst outing of his career on April 10 at Turner Field. He struggled to command his fastball and sinker in 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs (three earned) and walking five in a 6-4 loss.
Hale had surrendered only one earned run and walked three batters in his first three career starts, pitching at least five innings in every outing.
"I think after every start I have more comfort," Hale said. "The more you do something, the more comfortable you become and the more you learn. I made some adjustments, just little things that I know I should be doing. I think this one will be much better."
Wheeler, a Smyrna native, returned to the site of his stellar Major League debut on April 9 and fell short of the six scoreless innings he logged in Atlanta on June 18, 2013. He gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings of a 4-3 loss.
"I was aggressive today," Wheeler said following the loss at Turner Field. "That was my goal coming into this year was to be aggressive. Sometimes when you miss with your pitches, they take advantage of it. Sometimes they don't."
However, Wheeler's aggressiveness paid off in his first win of 2014, a 7-3 victory against the D-backs on April 14. Leadoff batters went 0-for-7 as Wheeler yielded only two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in Arizona.
"I got faster outs and I kept my pitch count down for the most part," Wheeler said following his most recent start. "It did sneak up there. I would have liked to have gotten through the seventh."
Mets: Wright extends hitting streak
Third baseman David Wright extended his hitting streak to 10 games with an RBI single on Saturday night against the Braves. He added an RBI double in New York's 7-5 loss to Atlanta.
Wright is batting .341 (15-for-44) with seven RBIs during the streak.
• Curtis Granderson finished 0-for-5 on Saturday night, prolonging a slump that began after he homered on April 5. Granderson is batting .105 (4-for-38) with 13 strikeouts since hitting a two-run shot that helped the Mets defeat the Reds, 6-3.
Braves: Minor expected to be activated within next week
Mike Minor made what is scheduled to be his final rehab start on Saturday night for Triple-A Gwinnett. He surrendered a pair of first-inning runs and then held Charlotte scoreless over the remainder of his six-inning effort. If he rebounds from this 80-pitch outing without any problems, he could make his first start for Atlanta as early as Friday.
Gavin Floyd was expected to be able to rejoin the rotation near the same time as Minor, but Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he expects Floyd to make at least two more rehab starts in the Minor Leagues before returning to the Majors.
• Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman is off to a red-hot start at the plate in 2014. He has hit safely in 14 of 17 games, tallied two or more hits in nine games and ranks among MLB's best with a .413 (26-for-63) batting average.
• Chris Johnson is batting .091 (1-for-11) with a walk and two strikeouts in his career against Wheeler, while Freeman is batting .556 (5-for-9) with a home run, three RBIs and three walks against the righty.
• Eric Young Jr. recorded three hits in three at-bats against Hale on April 10. One of the hits was a triple.
• Justin Upton stole his second base of the season on Saturday night. He has swiped 10 bases in 11 tries since joining Atlanta last season.