When Mets right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka and Braves left-hander Mike Minor square off on Monday night in the opener of a four-game series at Citi Field, each will have a degree of familiarity with his opponent even greater than when division rivals usually play each other.
Matsuzaka and Minor matched up in their most recent starts, on Tuesday at Turner Field in an eventual 5-4 Atlanta win. New York manager Terry Collins, however, said that such recent action lends an advantage to neither pitchers nor batters.
"Years and years ago, this is how it used to be. You used to go on a road trip and play two teams and then come back and play the same two teams. The answer to that is no, I don't think [seeing them so soon makes a difference]," Collins said. "If one of the games, you don't have your best stuff, and the next game you do, it's two completely different guys. I don't necessarily think it makes a big difference. Now, it can work the opposite, too -- one day you're sharp, and the next day you're not."
Both pitchers fall under that first category -- not having their best stuff. In that prior matchup, Matsuzaka (3.72 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) lasted five innings, yielding five runs on seven hits and three walks. Minor (4.73 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) gave up four runs on nine hits and a walk in 4 1/3.
More generally, Matsuzaka will seek to work deeper than he has of late. He has a 4.81 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in his seven starts and hasn't tossed more than six innings in any of them. Minor, whose ERA has jumped more than a run and a half in the last month, will try to regain the form that allowed him to turn in quality starts in six of his first seven outings this season.
Teams will say that any series with a divisional opponent is a big one, but that's especially true for the Mets this week. They trail the National League East-leading Braves by double digits, and an effort not significantly better than last week's -- when Atlanta swept the three-game set -- could help lead to the dissolution of this group of players.
General manager Sandy Alderson said over the weekend that he plans to re-evaluate the club's Trade Deadline status around the All-Star break.
"We got the Braves four more times. I'm not saying we have to sweep them, but we have to win some games," Collins said on Friday. "Use this time to take a positive step forward, have a good homestand, go into the break, get rested, hopefully get a little healthy in some spots, come out of the break and play better. There's no other way to go about it."
Braves: Team, BJ see streaks end on Sunday
The Braves' 3-1 loss to the D-backs in their series finale was unusual for a couple of reasons. First, it was a loss -- Atlanta's first since June 26, snapping a nine-game winning streak.
B.J. Upton finished 0-for-4 with three strikeouts to snap his career-best 11-game hitting streak, during which he batted .283/.313/.457. With two on and two out in the bottom of the seventh, Arizona righty Evan Marshall got him swinging on a changeup to end the threat.
Atlanta is 6-3 against the Mets and 24-14 against NL East teams this season.
Mets: Carlyle returns as Niese hits disabled list
With Jon Niese being placed on the disabled list to give his left shoulder a rest -- the team called it a strain, but Collins indicated that it's more just general soreness -- right-handed reliever Buddy Carlyle got the call to Queens for the second time this season.
Carlyle, who recorded a 2.16 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with Triple-A Las Vegas, threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings across two games during his previous stint in the Majors in late May and early June. He struggled of late in the Minors, yielding five runs in nine innings on 10 hits and six walks. All of the runs scored on homers.
Before his May callup, Carlyle, 36, pitched in parts of seven Major League seasons with the Padres, Dodgers, Braves and Yankees. He hadn't seen the bigs since 2011.
He is the obvious choice to be removed from the 25-man roster when Dillon Gee (strained right lat) returns from the DL to make Niese's start on Wednesday.
• Despite taking two of three from the Rangers over the weekend, the Mets have lost eight of their last 11 games. They are 19-22 at Citi Field.
• One big reason the Braves are so far ahead of New York in the standings? They are 17-10 in one-run games, whereas the Mets are 11-20 in such contests.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.