Left-hander Dillon Gee can't seem to catch a break against Atlanta. In the Mets' first meeting with the Braves this season, on May 25, the New York offense struck out 12 times, leaving Gee no margin for error in a 6-0 loss. Then, on June 17, after tossing 8 1/3 near-perfect innings at Turner Field, Gee surrendered a single and a walk-off home run to take a brutal 2-1 loss.
The Mets will aim to provide Gee some support and continue to play spoiler in the National League East as they kick off a four-game series with the first-place Braves on Monday night at Citi Field.
Gee's fortunes turned shortly after that mid-June heartbreaker in Atlanta: He has posted a 2.73 ERA in his last four starts, lasting at least six innings in each. He improved to .500 for the first time with his final start before the All-Star break, scattering five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win over the Pirates despite battling blisters on his feet.
"Stuff-wise, it probably wasn't the best day, but I was just trying to throw strikes," Gee said after that win. "The guys got out there and got us an early lead and set the tone against a good pitcher. So I want to try to throw a lot of strikes after that and keep them off-balance."
The Mets began a seven-game post-All-Star-break homestand with a series win over the Phillies and are in the middle of a stretch against all four NL East opponents to open the second half. With the Braves protecting the largest division lead in baseball and the Phillies and Nationals still searching for their first substantial winning streak, the Mets are in a prime position to disrupt multiple contenders.
Atlanta starter Julio Teheran stumbled into the break with one of his shortest outings of the year and will take the mound hoping that the extra days off have put his recent fatigue issues to rest.
"I was feeling really slow," Teheran said after an 8-4 loss to the Reds, on the Sunday before the break, in which he lasted 5 1/3 innings and matched a season high with five earned runs. "My arm was feeling slow, and when I was warming up, I was like, 'I need to find another way to get deep in the game.'"
Teheran allowed just one run but was tagged with the loss in his only encounter with the Mets so far this season, on May 26.
Braves: Loe called up to spell bullpen
After Paul Maholm's early exit on Saturday put added strain on the bullpen, the team purchased the contract of right-hander Kameron Loe from Triple-A Gwinnett before Sunday's game.
To make room for Loe on the roster, the Braves sent Tyler Pastornicky to Gwinnett. In his second stint in the Majors this season, Pastornicky appeared in 12 games, hitting .353 while seeing time at second base, shortstop and center field.
Loe made 11 appearances for the Cubs and the Mariners earlier in the season before signing a Minor League contract with the Braves on May 11. In 21 appearances for Gwinnett, he has a 3.19 ERA while holding opponents to a .252 batting average.
Maholm returned to Atlanta on Sunday to have his wrist examined by Dr. Gary Lourie, the Braves' associate physician and hand specialist. The team did not rule out the veteran left-hander for his next start, which is scheduled to come against rookie Zack Wheeler in Thursday's series finale.
• Jason Heyward missed his sixth consecutive game recovering from a strained right hamstring, but he would have been available as a defensive replacement if needed.
"I just wanted to make sure my legs were 100 percent before I can go out there and attempt to do that, so having this extra day is great for me," Heyward said before Sunday's 3-1 loss. "I'm ready to go play some defense late in the game if I have to, and [on Monday] we'll see where we're at. … But I think I'm ready to go."
Heyward will spend time in center field until B.J. Upton is ready to come off the 15-day disabled list.
Mets: Turner likely on the way back
Infielder Justin Turner appears set to return from the strained left intercostal that landed him on the DL on June 18. With his team navigating a stretch of 18 games in 17 days to open the second half, manager Terry Collins mentioned the possibility that Turner could replace one of the 13 pitchers on the 25-man roster within the next few days.
"You can't burn players going into the game," Collins said, "because you know you're going to need players at the back end. I would think pretty soon we'll get back to 12 pitchers."
Turner went 0-for-2 with a walk on Saturday night while playing for Class A Brooklyn and has hit .280 over his first eight rehab games.
• With his solo homer in the first inning on Sunday, Marlon Byrd has now driven in a run in five straight games, one game short of the longest streak of his career.
• The Braves and Mets have split their season series to date, winning six games apiece.
• Braves catcher Gerald Laird left Sunday afternoon's game in the fourth inning with a contusion to his left hand after being hit by a pitch.
• The Mets have won seven of their last 10 games.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.