ATLANTA -- After producing one of the National League's worst on-base percentages in 2011, the Braves entered this season determined to regain some of the same plate discipline that had helped them reach the playoffs in 2010.
Some of that discipline was on display during a patience-filled, five-run second inning that provided Johan Santana the earliest exit of his career and allowed the Braves to cruise toward a 9-3 win over the Mets on Tuesday night.
"I would say the offense in the first and second inning was a bunch of get-em-over and get-em-ins with a huge at-bat by Freddie [Freeman] mixed in," Braves outfielder Matt Diaz said.
Having totaled just eight runs while losing each of their first four games played against the Mets this season, the Braves did not necessarily want to see Santana. But this was not the same former Cy Young Award winner who had allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of his previous 13 career starts against Atlanta. The most recent one had helped the Mets claim a 1-0 win on Opening Day.
Nor was this the same Braves offense that had hit .152 with a .225 on-base percentage in this year's first four games against the Mets. It looked much more like the group that had totaled 31 runs during the five-game winning streak that was snapped during Monday night's series opener.
"We had some good at-bats," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We had a pretty good approach. [Hitting coaches Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher] did a good job preparing these guys, just like we did [on Opening Day]. We did a good job of taking advantage of some of their miscues and put a crooked number up there."
Jason Bay's inability to track the wind-aided fly ball hit by leadoff hitter Michael Bourn led to a run in the first inning. But Bourn's productive eight-pitch at-bat marked just the start of things for the Braves, who truly got going after Dan Uggla drew an unexpected walk to start the second inning. Uggla entered the game with one hit and one walk in 22 plate appearances against Santana.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Diaz improved his career batting average against Santana to .514 (18-for-35) with a sharp single that advanced Uggla to second base.
The tone of the evening was then set by Freeman, who ended his recent struggles with an 11-pitch at-bat that concluded with an opposite-field double that scored Uggla and put runners on second and third base with none out.
"You've got [runners on] first and second, you don't want to go down swinging," said Freeman, who had two hits and 10 strikeouts in his previous 21 at-bats. "It's been a little bit of a struggle for me so far. But I was just trying to battle and keep fighting up there. I was able to take an outside pitch there and just go with it."
Santana totaled 23 pitches while facing Uggla, Diaz and Freeman during the decisive frame. By the time the veteran hurler had recorded his first out in the second inning, he had already thrown 52 of the 55 pitches included in this outing.
"We threw some pitches up there, [Freeman] fouled them off," Santana said. "But it's not just that at-bat. I felt good. It was just a good at-bat for him and he made me throw a lot of pitches and took me out of the game. I don't put that on one at-bat. It's just part of the game."
Tyler Pastornicky followed Freeman's opposite-field double by directing his own past the first-base bag. Ike Davis aided the five-run uprising with a throwing error and Jason Heyward capped it with an RBI single that chased Santana in the second inning for the first time in 266 starts. Santana had completed only three innings three previous times with the most recent being on June 14, 2009, against the Yankees.
Freeman added an RBI single in a two-run fifth inning that provided even more cushion for Braves starter Randall Delgado, who allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed two runs and four hits in a fourth inning that could have been perfect had Uggla and at least two other teammates not lost sight of Bay's pop fly behind second base.
After allowing three consecutive two-out singles in the fourth, Delgado recorded two key strikeouts to strand two runners in the fifth inning. The 22-year-old right-hander has won his first two starts of this season and three of four dating back to last year.
"He's got a great arm, but he also pitches," Diaz said. "You watched him get that lead and he went after people with fastballs. He knew the game. He played the game. He wasn't out there for his own numbers."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.