If the New York Mets are to be a factor in the National League East race down the stretch, they will have to play their way into it by defeating divisional rivals head-to-head.

With the exception of this weekend's three-game series in Pittsburgh, the Mets are in a stretch of games against all four NL East opponents. Since June 28, New York has taken two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies and three of four from the Washington Nationals and dropped two of three to the Florida Marlins.

Starting Thursday, the Mets get their chance at the remaining team, the Atlanta Braves, with four games at Shea Stadium. Kris Benson will start the opener for New York versus Atlanta lefty Horacio Ramirez. The Braves have won seven of nine meetings between the clubs this season.

Pitching matchup:
ATL: LHP Horacio Ramirez
• 8-5, 4.65 ERA in 2005
• 1-1, 5.71 ERA vs. NYM in 2005

NYM: RHP Kris Benson
• 6-3, 3.65 ERA in 2005
• Has not faced ATL in 2005

Player to watch
Mike Cameron is 3-for-3 lifetime against Ramirez with one home run. The center fielder ended what had been a tough road trip for him with two hits and two RBIs on Sunday.

Quotable
"We just have to play more consistent ball. You look at the first half -- we gave away a few games with [poor] situational hitting and making mistakes at the wrong times. To go to another level and win your share of games, you have to play real sound, crisp baseball." -- Manager Willie Randolph, on how the Mets can gain ground in the second half

On the Internet
MLB.TV
Gameday Audio
Gameday
Official game notes

On television
• ATL: TSS
• NYM: WPIX

On radio
• ATL: WGST
• NYM: WFAN 660, WADO 1280 (Español)

Quick hits
The Mets are not only a .500 team overall; they own .500 records against both right-handed (31-31) and left-handed starters (13-13). ... Jose Reyes enters the break first in the National League in triples (nine), second in stolen bases (26) and first in at-bats (379). ... The Mets entered Sunday's game second-to-last in the league in on-base percentage.

On deck
• Friday: vs. Braves, 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: vs. Braves, 7:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: vs. Braves, 1:10 p.m. ET