ATLANTA (AP) — All it took was a trip back home for the Atlanta Braves to return to their winning ways. The New York Mets, on the other hand, have to be wondering if they’ll see a winning record again in 2010.

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The Braves look to add to the majors’ best home record Tuesday night at Turner Field against the crumbling Mets, who try to avoid falling under .500 for the first time since May 23.

Atlanta (60-45) went 3-6 on its recently-completed road trip and saw its NL East lead shrink to 2 1/2 games over Philadelphia, but didn’t allow the idle Phillies to come any closer Monday.

The Braves improved to 35-13 at Turner Field thanks to a player making his home debut with his new team. Rick Ankiel, acquired from Kansas City prior to Saturday’s trade deadline, had two hits and two RBIs to lift Atlanta to a 4-1 win.

“(It was) perfect,” said Ankiel, who’s hitting .387 with eight RBIs in his last eight games. “It was good to get the first one out of the way.”

The loss dropped the Mets (53-53) to .500 – 7 1/2 games behind Atlanta – and there appears to be little hope in sight for Jerry Manuel’s club. New York has dropped 16 of 22 since July 7, when it was two games behind the Braves.

“We have to win here,” said Mets starter Johan Santana, who fell to 8-6. “We need to get close to these guys.”

Though there have been few bright spots since the All-Star break for the Mets, Tuesday’s starter is certainly one. R.A. Dickey (7-4, 2.32 ERA) has a 1.29 ERA in four starts since the break, though he was 0-2 in that span prior to Thursday’s outing at St. Louis.

The knuckleballer finally got some support against the Cardinals. Dickey held St. Louis to four hits over 8 1-3 innings – his longest outing since 2004 – and Ike Davis hit a three-run homer in a 4-0 victory.

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“He does a tremendous job,” Manuel said of Dickey. “He right now seems to get through the lineup two or three times relatively easy. And that’s tough to do at this level – for anybody.”

Dickey had only faced the Braves in relief prior to July 9, when he gave up four runs and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings of a 4-2 defeat. He fell to 0-1 with a 7.45 ERA in three appearances against Atlanta.

Omar Infante, who homered off Dickey last month, is 5 for 7 against him. Infante had two hits Monday to increase his average to .483 (14 for 29) against the Mets this season.

The Braves might need a strong night at the plate with Derek Lowe (10-9, 4.58) on the hill. The right-hander hasn’t made it through six innings since July 5, and is 1-1 with a 6.19 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break.

Lowe gave up four runs over five innings Thursday in a 5-3 loss at Washington.

“Mistakes here and there are always going to get you,” Lowe told the Braves’ official website. “It seems like one pitch in my last four games ends up costing you a couple of runs and ultimately the game.”

The Mets are hardly the ideal opponent for Lowe, who is 2-4 with a 7.22 ERA in eight starts versus New York since 2007.

Braves All-Star second baseman Martin Prado, who’s been out since Friday, was placed on the disabled list Monday with a broken right pinkie.

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