ATLANTA—After a mediocre home stand culminating in an embarrassing loss to the Diamondbacks, the Mets knew they had to get off to a good start on the road.

Facing the two top teams in the NL East, the Mets didn’t come to play in their opener against the Braves. They had their ace Johan Santana on the mound, but he was only 2-5 in his career against Atlanta, even with a 2.01 ERA.

What cost the Mets tonight was the entire first inning. In the Mets half, they had an immediate shot to get to Tim Hudson, who has had a great season.

Angel Pagan singled and stole second, and Carlos Beltran walked. They came up empty though, as David Wright and Ike Davis both recorded outs.

In the Braves half, the Mets got a sloppy error at the worst time, that was the key to the game. After Omar Infante led off with a single and Jason Heyward walked, Chipper Jones grounded a routine double play to third base.

David Wright threw to second for an out, but Luis Castillo fumbled the ball in the exchange, allowing runners at the corners with one out. The next batter, Matt Diaz, lined a run-scoring double to left, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.

Luis Castillo then made a nice play throwing a runner out at home for the second out, but two batters later, Rick Ankiel brought in two with a single, extending the lead to 3-0.

Johan Santana has given up nine first-inning runs in his last two starts.

It was going to be a tough hill to climb, being Tim Hudson was 144-17 in his career with a three-plus run lead.

Tim Hudson for the first time in his career, made two errors in a game. His first one came in the second, allowing Castillo to reach third on an infield hit, but he was stranded.

Santana wasn’t sharp in the game, and actually allowed three leadoff doubles, although none scored. It was really a strange all around game for Santana, as he allowed four runs and nine hits, but struck out 11.

Therefore, whenever the Braves made contact, they generally produced. The Braves went 9-for-19 on balls hit in play (.474), known as BABIP.

The Mets had plenty of opportunities in the game, including two hits in the fourth without coming through.

They finally did break through in the fifth. Carlos Beltran scored Reyes from first on a double, cutting the Braves lead to 3-1.

Tim Hudson left after six with a high pitch count. He allowed one run on six hits, he walked and struck out three.

The Braves though, have a great backend of the bullpen, with Venters, Saito, and Wagner pitching the final three innings.

The Braves added a run in the seventh on a Chipper Jones home run, on their way to a 4-1 win.

It’s a damaging loss for the Mets, as for the first time since June 2, they fall to .500. After being 11 games over the mark, the Mets have gone 12-23 in their last 35 games.

They will now continue their series in Atlanta tomorrow night, with R.A. Dickey facing Derek Lowe.

NL East standings                                               
Atlanta 60-45
Philadelphia 57-48 (3)
Florida 53-52 (7)
NY Mets 53-53 (7 1/2)

NL Wild Card (Leader and Mets)
San Francisco 61-45
NY Mets 53-53 (8)

Series probable pitchers:
August 3
New York: R.A. Dickey (2010: 7-4, 2.32 ERA) vs. Atlanta: Derek Lowe (2010: 10-9, 4.58 ERA)
August 4
New York: Mike Pelfrey (2010: 10-5, 4.10 ERA) vs. Atlanta: Kris Medlen (2010: 6-2, 3.66 ERA)

Upcoming schedule:
New York Mets:
August 3-4 @ Atlanta Braves
August 6-8 @ Philadelphia Phillies

Atlanta Braves:
August 3-4 vs. New York Mets
August 5-8 vs. San Francisco Giants

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