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WSH@NYM: Santana strikes out eight over five frames

Johan Santana doesn't have many restrictions left with two regular-season starts under his belt. Nineteen months after left-shoulder surgery, his maximum pitch count is up to 115, and he seldom surpassed that mark when he was healthy in 2009 and '10 anyway.

But the Mets can't control the weather in Atlanta when they face the Braves and right-hander Randall Delgado at 7:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Turner Field, and that could turn out to be Santana's biggest problem. The forecast calls for thunderstorms throughout the early part of the week, particularly late Tuesday afternoon.

If Santana has to leave the mound after an inning or two and wait out a delay, manager Terry Collins might only give Santana about half an hour before shutting him down for good. Santana won't be scratched, Collins assured, but the manager will probably shorten his usual hour-long rope with starting pitchers in rain delays.

"What I want to do is hopefully get some innings out of him," Collins said. "Some guys, if it's the second or third inning, a lot of those guys will say, 'I'm fine. I'll come back.' And he will say that, too, no doubt in my mind. I just probably won't bring him back."

The Braves, meanwhile, are hoping to give Santana more to worry about than just the weather. They haven't challenged the Mets much this season, scoring in only four of the 36 innings they've played this season while losing all four games.

But there might be more to that than simply a lack of run production on Atlanta's part, Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. Practically laughed off by experts making preseason predictions, the Mets have jumped out of the gates with a 7-3 record -- the second best in a loaded National League East.

"I don't think this is just a hot little start for [the Mets]. They've got a solid ballclub," Uggla said. "All the attention was going to the Phillies and us and Marlins and Washington. But I've been trying to tell people you can't count out this Mets team."

The Braves will need a strong outing from Delgado to help halt their trouble with the Mets. Delgado will be making his second start of the season. He threw five innings while picking up a win against Houston on Wednesday, allowing two runs on five hits, two walks and a home run while striking out six.

"I thought Delgado gave us everything we were looking for," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after that start. "He hadn't pitched in seven or eight days and we weren't going to push him over 100 pitches. He gave us a nice outing."

Mets: Torres still not running on strained calf
• Outfielder Andres Torres hit off a tee, took soft-toss swings and played catch Monday at the Mets' Minor League complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and he'll do more of the same Tuesday. Torres, who strained his left calf on Opening Day, still has not attempted to run, and it seems unlikely that he'll rejoin the team before May.

Torres worked his way back from a calf injury the last week of Spring Training and broke camp with the team before re-injuring the muscle on Opening Day.

"He's getting close," assistant general manager John Ricco said. "He's getting antsy. But we're really trying, based on the Spring Training experience, to hold him back."

• Jason Bay (jammed right ring finger) returned to the Mets' lineup Monday after missing only one game. He batted fifth and played left field, finishing 1-for-4 with a ninth-inning solo homer. Bay also robbed Jack Wilson of a home run with a sterling defensive play, stretching his glove over the left-field fence.

"I just had a tough time getting my finger around the bat yesterday," Bay said Monday afternoon at Turner Field. "With the swelling down, it's a little sore, which is to be expected. But soreness, you can handle. Not being able to grip the bat was kind of a pain."

Braves: Heyward's hot start continues
• After a breakout rookie season, something clearly wasn't right with Jason Heyward at the plate in 2011. It's still early, but Heyward has looked more like his old self so far this year. And everyone around him is excited to see it.

After a 2-for-3 night Monday, Heyward is batting .375 with two homers, one double, one triple, five RBIs and three stolen bases. He is currently on a six-game hitting streak and has gone 10-for-21 (.476) over that stretch.

"What he's doing is what we all know [he can do]," first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "It's awesome. He's finally healthy, and you've gotten to see the Jason of 2010 and the Jason that I've gotten to see since 2006."

"He's having fun playing the game and he's healthy," added Gonzalez. "Last year, nothing was sticking out of his skin or anything. But he didn't feel right. This year, he is feeling good. ... When he has fun and hits, we have fun also."

• The Braves' struggles with runners in scoring position continued Monday night. Atlanta went 0-for-7 with RISP on the night in those situations, bringing its season average to .198.

Worth noting
With Chipper Jones playing his final season, the Mets will acknowledge the Braves' third baseman in some way in Queens for being such a perennial threat against the Mets throughout his impressive career. He's hit 48 homers in 231 career games against New York and named his third son Shea due to his success at Shea Stadium. He won't receive any sort of grand ceremony or honor, but Jones was hardly surprised to hear that.

"I'm not expecting anything," Jones said Monday. "But anything would be appreciated.

"It's no secret, my relationship with the fans of New York," Jones added. "They don't let you forget. That's the way it should be."

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