ATLANTA - DeLighted to run rookie sensation Jacob deGrom out to the mound again, the Mets soundly deFeated the Braves, 10-2, on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep that moved them within a half-game of Atlanta for second place in the National League East.

DeDuce from this 76-80 Mets season what you will. It certainly could have been better. But know that deGrom's heater -- a mid-90s fastball mixed effectively with an assortment of off-speed pitches -- has provided a stairway to Mets respectability.

DeGrom (9-6, 2.63 ERA) started the game with four consecutive strikeouts. And yes, "the thought kind of ran through my head about trying to get nine," he said after his first start since tying the major-league record of eight straight strikeouts to begin a game.

"Here we go again," manager Terry Collins said he was thinking. This time deGrom merely no-hit Atlanta through four innings, not allowing a baserunner until Justin Upton's leadoff single in the fifth. He deGraded and deStroyed Atlanta's offense with 10 strikeouts -- his fourth career double-digit strikeout game -- with three walks and an earned run in his six innings.

"This guy," Collins said, "has stepped up and given us something we desperately needed when Matt [Harvey] went down -- that quality starter. This guy goes out there and you're just saying, 'We're going to be in the game for seven innings.'

"So if I had a vote -- and I don't -- but if I did, he'd get my vote for Rookie of the Year."

In the meantime, Collins and his staff will discuss whether to allow deGrom one more start. Between the minors and majors, he has pitched 1782/3 innings, and the team's plan had been not to go beyond 180 or 185. "I know one thing," Collins said. "He wants to go back out there."

DeGrom confirmed that wish. "I want to make another one," he said. "We talked. So we'll see. I'd like to get to the 185 so there's no limit next year."

By the time Buddy Carlyle was summoned from the bullpen to start the seventh, the Mets led 6-2 and deGrom had embellished his already pleasing numbers.

In his last 15 of 22 major-league starts, he has gone 9-2 with a 1.90 ERA. And while deGrom worked Sunday, the Mets built their comfortable lead in a variety of ways.

Daniel Murphy's groundout drove in Matt den Dekker, who led off the game with a double, and Ruben Tejada's sacrifice fly produced a run in the second.

In the fourth, Curtis Granderson walked, went to third on Kirk Nieuwenhuis' double and scored on a passed ball. Nieuwenhuis scored on Anthony Recker's sacrifice fly. And Tejada homered on the next pitch.

DeGrom's squeeze bunt brought a sixth run in the sixth inning. Atlanta reliever Gus Schlosser handed the Mets another in the eighth by throwing away a pickoff attempt, and an RBI double by Nieuwenhuis and a two-run double by Recker capped a three-run ninth. The Mets collected 14 hits.

But the real Mets secret sauce was deGrom, who has struck out (so to speak) on a promising career at the somewhat advanced age of 26.

"You know, every year there's always going to be a good story in baseball, somebody that comes from nowhere and ends up making a name for himself," Collins said. "And that's the story going on here with Jacob.

"He came up and he's grabbed that opportunity."

No deBate about that.