By CHARLES ODUM=
^AP Sports Writer=
ATLANTA (AP) _ Too much rest led to too many walks for Jonathon Niese.
With his start pushed back by an off day Thursday and a rainout Saturday, Niese was wild on Sunday as he matched his career high with six walks and gave up seven runs in the New York Mets’ 9-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
Niese, who had been scheduled to pitch Saturday, was making his first start since April 28 _ exactly a week.
“Most likely he was probably too strong,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Collins said Niese had “just no feel today.”
“It’s all due to the fact it’s been seven days since he’s pitched,” Collins said. “He was too strong. He didn’t have his good command.”
The results were ugly for the left-hander, who gave up five runs in the third.
Niese (2-3) allowed seven hits in four-plus innings. He also threw two wild pitches as his ERA rose from 3.31 to 4.66.
“I walked way too many guys,” Niese said. “It’s embarrassing. I know what I have to work on. In bullpens I’m going to work on pounding the zone and throwing strikes.
“I’ve just got to learn from it and know when to expand the zone and when not to.”
Freddie Freeman had three hits, including a homer, and drove in three runs for Atlanta. Tim Hudson pitched into the eighth inning.
Niese was reluctant to blame his problems on too much rest.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Maybe. I thought I was under control for the most part. I think I didn’t have a very good feel from the stretch.
“It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to forget about it.”
With the Mets also off on Monday, Collins said he wasn’t happy his starters would have too much rest. Collins’ other option Sunday was to skip Niese’s spot in the rotation and have Matt Harvey remain on schedule.
“I don’t like it. I don’t like it a lick,” Collins said before the game. “But if you skip Jon Niese, all of a sudden now he doesn’t pitch in 10 days. So you move them both back, you try to keep them as prepared as you can.”
David Wright hit a two-run homer in the fourth off Hudson (4-1), who gave up three runs on five hits and a walk in 7 1-3 innings. Wright has homered in three straight games, giving him five.
Reed Johnson also had three RBIs for the Braves. Freeman smacked a two-run double off Niese in the five-run third and added a sixth-inning homer off reliever Jeurys Familia.
The left-handed hitting Freeman hit his home run to left field. The opposite-field shot showed manager Fredi Gonzalez that Freeman is back in form after missing two weeks in April with a strained left oblique.
“When he’s doing that, when any hitter is driving the ball to the opposite field, you know he’s starting to get locked in,” Gonzalez said.
The Braves’ bats rebounded after scoring a combined six runs in three straight defeats, including a 7-5 loss to the Mets in 10 innings Friday night.
Freeman boosted his batting average to .313.
“I feel good,” he said. “It’s a work in progress. The last couple of days everything has been working out.”
Atlanta’s lineup will receive another boost Monday when Brian McCann, a six-time All-Star catcher, comes off the disabled list. McCann has been recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
The Mets scored twice in the eighth before Eric O’Flaherty struck out Marlon Byrd with the bases loaded to end the inning.
“We kept battling,” Collins said. “We made it a game in the eighth, which I’m very happy for.”
Niese’s last two walks came in the fifth, when he was pulled with none out and the bases loaded. Johnson hit a two-run single off Familia.
The Braves sent 10 batters to the plate in the third. Andrelton Simmons doubled and scored on Justin Upton’s single. Freeman drove in two runs with his double over left fielder Lucas Duda and scored from third on a wild pitch one out later. Johnson added a run-scoring single for a 5-0 lead.
Hudson is almost unbeatable when given such a lead. He improved to 156-6 in his career when receiving at least four runs of support while still in the game.
Pinch-hitter Mike Baxter led off the eighth with a double against Hudson and scored on Duda’s single off Luis Avilan. Cory Gearrin hit John Buck with a pitch to load the bases with two outs. O’Flaherty, Atlanta’s fourth pitcher of the inning, walked pinch-hitter Justin Turner to force in a run before striking out Byrd on a 3-2 pitch.
Braves rookie catcher Evan Gattis had two hits and an eighth-inning sacrifice fly off Scott Atchison to drive in Upton.
NOTES: Niese also issued six walks on Sept. 22, 2010, at Florida. … The Mets open a two-game home series against the White Sox on Tuesday night, with Harvey going for his fifth win.