Work in Sports
FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) -- With everyone in Flushing gearing up for the return of John Rocker, it may be easy to overlook the fact that the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets will be playing for first place in the National League East this weekend.
Rocker, who insulted New York City and a few ethnic and minority groups in a well-chronicled Sports Illustrated article last winter, makes his return to Shea Stadium since helping to end the Mets' magical run in last year's National League Championship Series.
The hardthrowing lefthander insulted passengers on the No. 7 train during his rant and he intended to ride the train to tonight's contest before the Braves decided it would be in his best interest to travel with the team.
Security will be at a maximum and a raucous crowd will be ready to greet Rocker with contempt, but Mets fans should be more concerned with their team's seven-game winning streak and the chance they have to overtake Atlanta in the East. New York enters the series two games behind the Braves -- one in the loss column.
"Hopefully, everyone will focus on the baseball game and not the circus (surounding Rocker)," Mets reliever John Franco said.
New York won a season-high nine in a row in April.
Greg Maddux, who has enjoyed an abundance of success against the Mets in his career, has been scratched from his start tonight and replaced by righthander John Burkett. Maddux owns a 25-13 lifetime record against the Mets, the most wins he has garnered against any opponent. No reason was given for the change.
Burkett (5-3, 5.14 ERA) did not have a decisIon in his last start Friday against Milwaukee, allowing one run and five hits in six innings.
New York counters with Rick Reed (4-1, 4.52), who lasted a season-low three innings in his previous start. Reed surrendered four runs and nine hits but did not receive a decision in a 10-8 win against Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Reed is just 1-1 over his last nine starts after opening the campaign with three wins in five outings. He is 3-2 career against the Braves with a 3.64 ERA and did not receive a decision in his lone start against them in last year's NLCS, surrendering two runs and three hits over seven innings in a 3-2 victory in Game Four.
The Braves won nine of 12 games from the Mets during the regular season last year and are 18-6 against them over the last two campaigns.