The Braves' magic number continues to shrink, as the team with baseball's best record holds a 14-game lead in the National League East.
Atlanta has been particularly difficult to top at Turner Field, where the Braves boast the Majors' best home record, at 49-19.
On Monday, the Braves will serve host to the Mets for the first of three games between the division foes. Paul Maholm, who will toe the rubber in Monday's matinee, has enjoyed pitching at home this season. The lefty is 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA at his friendly confines, compared to 4-8 with a 6.08 ERA on the road.
Overall, Maholm stands at 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA. Last year with Atlanta, he went 4-5 with a 3.54 ERA.
"My goal for the whole month of September is to get back to there and for them to have confidence in me going forward," Maholm said. "Obviously, we've got a great staff, and every one of us wants to be part of the playoff thing. We have to continue to win games, and we have to push each other and see how it shakes out."
Maholm spent a month on the disabled list with a bruised left wrist. He returned on Aug. 22 and surrendered five runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings of a loss to St. Louis. He discovered his form last time out, though, holding the Indians to one run over six frames on Wednesday.
"I'd gotten into some bad habits with my mechanics, and whenever you're fighting your mechanics, it's kind of tough to do those things, to be confident," Maholm said.
The Mets, meanwhile, won't get into Atlanta until about 4 a.m. ET, manager Terry Collins said, which means getting to bed no earlier than 5 a.m. Their bus to the ballpark on Monday will leave at 11 a.m.
"They've still got to get ready to play. We can make jokes about it and make it light but we've still got to get ready to play," Collins said. "It's a big league baseball game and there's consequences. There's teams playing stuff, so we'll show up and play hard like we always have."
Collins, though, isn't making excuses for whatever Monday's outcome might be.
"No, there's nothing we can do about it," Collins said. "We're going to have to suck it up."
Mets: Dice-K on the hill
• The Mets send veteran hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound opposite Maholm. In two starts with New York, the 32-year-old has allowed nine runs on 12 hits over 9 1/3 innings.
"I will tell you -- his stuff's good enough. It plays," Collins said. "When he commands it, he's going to get outs, because it's good enough."
Matsuzaka pitched well for Triple-A Columbus, the Indians' Minor League affiliate, before he asked for and was granted his release two weeks ago. So far, his success has not translated to the big leagues.
"I don't think it has anything to do with whether it's Triple-A or the big leagues," Matsuzaka said. "I believe that as long as I have my command, I'll be able to get batters in Triple-A or in the big leagues out."
• The Mets activated right-hander Vic Black and promoted southpaw Tim Byrdak to the big league club on Sunday.
New York acquired Black on Thursday from the Pirates as part of a deal that sent veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh. Black, 25, was the 49th overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He posted a 2.51 ERA in 46 2/3 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis this season.
Byrdak, 39, made 11 scoreless appearances for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Braves: Garcia summoned
The Braves added hurler Freddy Garcia to their big league staff on Sunday, and the veteran right-hander pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Alex Wood.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to use the 15-year veteran as a long reliever and potential spot starter.
"He gives you another option," Gonzalez said. "He can spot start somebody, you can plug him in there like we were trying to do with [Maholm] before [Brandon Beachy was placed on to the disabled list]."
Atlanta acquired Garcia from the Orioles for cash considerations on Aug. 23. He made one start for Triple-A Gwinnett before getting promoted.
"They told me I'd be a long reliever, and I don't have any problem with that," Garcia said. "I've done it before. Right now, I'm feeling good. And with everything they ask me to do, I try to do the best I can."
• Maholm is 5-4 with a 5.06 ERA in day games, compared to 4-6 with a 3.54 ERA in night games.