By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Paul Maholm and the Atlanta Braves are making
their best pitch for the playoffs.
Maholm and the Braves bullpen combined to give Atlanta three
straight shutouts for the first time in exactly a decade, and the
NL wild-card leaders beat the New York Mets 3-0 on Friday night.
Coming off two 1-0 wins over Colorado, the Braves’ staff
stretched its scoreless streak to 28 innings. Atlanta last pitched
three straight shutouts on Sept. 4-7, 2002, according to STATS LLC.
“You try to throw up as many zeros as possible,” Maholm said.
Jason Heyward hit his 25th homer in the fourth inning and Dan
Uggla also connected.
This weekend marks Chipper Jones’ last trip to New York to play
the Mets, an opponent he has often wrecked in the past. The Mets
presented the retiring 40-year-old star with a pricey piece of 3-D
artwork as part of his farewell tour in a pregame ceremony, while
the crowd responded with its usual boos.
Jones did little, going 0 for 4, including a strikeout with the
bases loaded, and making a throwing error from third base.
“Pregame was a blast. The whole day was a blast, except for
when I went to step up to the plate or a ball was hit to me,”
Fortunately for the Braves, they did fine without him making a
Maholm (12-9) worked around five hits and three walks in 5 1-3
innings. He evened his record at 3-3 since the Braves got him in a
trade with the Chicago Cubs on July 30, including a three-hit
shutout at Citi Field on Aug. 10.
“It wasn’t the cleanest game,” he said. “I was a little
erratic. They kind of waited me out.”
Still, he extended his shutout streak against the Mets to 22 1-3
innings, spanning four outings. Hitless relief helped him and the
Braves close it out.
Chad Durbin got one out in the sixth and Luis Avilan retired
pinch-hitter Lucas Duda on a grounder with runners on second and
third to end the inning. Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty each
pitched a scoreless inning and Craig Kimbrel worked the ninth for
his 35th save in 38 chances.
“The thing we did so well when we had guys on base was to get
two-out hits. But lately, we’re not hitting. We’re not hitting at
all. And we haven’t been able to get big hits here at home,” Mets
manager Terry Collins.
The Mets lost their eighth straight series opener at Citi Field.
Heyward put the Braves ahead with a drive off Jonathon Niese
(10-9) that landed on the roof of the Atlanta bullpen.
Uggla opened the seventh with a double against Bobby Parnell.
Catcher Kelly Shoppach had him picked off, but made a wild throw
into center field. The error moved up Uggla, and he scored on a
sacrifice fly by David Ross.
Uggla hit his 18th home run with two outs in the ninth.
NOTES: Damian Moss, Kevin Millwood and Greg Maddux were the
starters when Atlanta threw those shutouts in 2002. … Mets CF
Andres Torres bruised his left knee making a diving catch on Martin
Prado’s liner in the second and left the game. He was listed as
day-to-day. … Braves 1B Freddie Freeman was hitless in four
at-bats and is an 0-for-15 rut. … Mets SS Ruben Tejada got a day
off for rest. Collins said Tejada might sit out again Saturday. …
The Braves were informed that Prado’s two-run double last Sunday
against Philadelphia was changed by Major League Baseball executive
Joe Torre to an error.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)