Series Preview: Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets
The New York Mets enter its three-game series with the Atlanta Braves as the hottest team in baseball, having won eight consecutive games. The Mets swept their last two series against the Marlins and Phillies and have not lost a game since the Braves defeated them twice on April 10th and 11th. The Braves are the only team to defeat the Mets in a series this season.
It’s still early in the season so some of the numbers are going to be inflated, like Cahill’s 15.43 ERA or Colon’s surprising 3-0 record. All early season stats aside, the Mets have pitched very well as a team through 13 games. The 3.00 ERA posted by the staff is good for 7th in the major leagues and just behind the Nationals (2.97) for best in the division.
Both teams have their back-end starters pitching the first followed by the two Opening Day starters to finish up the series. Niese has only allowed two earned runs all season in his two starts and earned a no-decision against the Braves, when he pitched five innings and allowed only one earned run (three total). I give Niese the advantage over a shaky Cahill, who was hit hard (four runs in two innings) in his only start this season.
The Gee-Stults matchup is probably the worst matchup of the series, but it has potential to be very competitive. Gee had a rough outing against Atlanta in his first start of the season, going five innings and allowing five runs, while Stults allowed three over five innings in a win for the Braves. I anticipate this game will be won by the pitcher who can do the best job of damage control.
Colon continues to baffle me with how well he has pitched this year. In his first three starts, Colon has posted gamescores of 69, 58 and 66 to earn a victory. Oh, did I mention he also has two RBI at the plate? That’s two more than Curtis Granderson has this year.
Teheran held the Mets to only two hits and one earned run in his start on the 11th of this month. He pitched himself out of the trouble he caused with four walks. Although he only gave up two hits, Teheran was far from dominant. I expect to see good outings from Teheran and Colon in this game, leaving it up to the bullpens to decide a winner.
The Mets bullpen is without two keys members. Obviously, Jenrry Mejia is not pitching, but the recent loss of left-handed-specialist Jerry Blevins hurts as well. Blevins made seven appearances and didn’t allow a hit before he was injured. Jeurys Familia has converted on all six of his save chances serving as Mejia’s replacement. Sean Gilmartin (6.00 ERA) is a lefty who will see more innings with Blevins out, his only blemish being a home run allowed to the Phillies.
The Braves are also using a replacement closer, but for a different reason. The Craig Kimbrel trade to San Diego caught everyone by surprise, but it’s nothing that NL East opponents will be complaining about. RHP Jason Grilli, 38, has been a lockdown closer so far this season with six saves already, while only allowing one run. This is not the same big-name Braves bullpen that Fredi Gonzalez had when he was hired, but it is still a talented unit.
One-time All-Star closer Jim Johnson is back ion MLB after his complete implosion (7.09 ERA) with the A’s and Tigers last season. Johnson has a 4.91 ERA in his seven appearances this year. Left-hander Andrew McKirahan will not be pitching any time soon after he was slapped with an 80-game suspension for taking a banned substance.
Both of the teams have one elite defender on its roster, for the Mets it is Juan Lagares and for the Braves it’s shortstop Andrelton Simmons. A two-time Gold glove winner, Simmons has posted the best defensive WAR in the National League in each of the last two seasons. While Lagares only has one Gold Glove to his name, he is still the best defensive center fielder in the game. The only player to have a better defensive WAR than Lagares last year was, you guessed it, Simmons.
With both David Wright and now Travis D’Arnuad on the disabled list the Mets offense has been led by newcomer Michael Cuddyer and Lucas Duda. Cuddyer has hit safely in nine of the last ten games and is second on the team with a .333 avg. The only player hitting the ball better than Cuddyer right now is Duda, who is hitting .347 in his first 47 at-bats. Duda has yet to show that 30-home-run power that he proved he had last year.
New acquisition Nick Markakis has shown that he was valuable signing, leading the team with a .375 batting avg. in the 11 games he has played. The Braves are lacking in home run power this year with no Jason Heyward nor Justin Upton in the lineup. Freddie Freeman is still in town and leads the team with four; after him, A.J. Pierzynski has three in only five games.
I don’t think the Braves have enough offensive firepower to defeat the Mets with how hot they are right now. No Wright or D’Arnaud isn’t desirable but Eric Campbell has done a serviceable job replacing the captain and Anthony Recker or prospect Kevin Plawecki will be able to fill in for a few weeks.