Mets – Braves Quick Preview
Don’t look now, but the Mets who couldn’t get out of their own way a little over a week ago have ripped off seven straight wins and eight of their last ten. They’re 11-6 at home and one game in front of the Phillies as the NL East leaders. Meanwhile, the Braves oftentimes resemble a minor league team, and struggling to win 50% of thei ballgames. This three-game set should establish a wide chasm between these two clubs that has not existed since the late 1980s.
Game one: Johan Santana (4-1, 0.91 ERA) vs. Derek Lowe (4-1, 3.98 ERA)
We all wanted Derek Lowe in orange and blue this year, but the Braves stole him away to be their ace. However, this matchup of “aces” is a no-contest. Santana is not having just a Cy Young year so far, he’s making a case for MVP. Yeah, it’s early, but Santana has been outstanding. If only he had the chutzpah to pitch past the seventh inning, we might consider mentioning him in the same breath with Tom Terrific. But hey, who needs to pitch past the seventh when you have J.J. Putz and K-Rod closing games for you (oops).
If there’s any concern for the Mets in this game, it is the fact that Chipper Jones (.455), Brian McCann (.385), and Kelly Johnson (.429) all historically hit well against Santana. But, Jones is not 100%, McCann just came off the DL with eye issues, and Johnson has been slumping all year.
On the flip side, Carlos Delgado is .308 lifetime against Lowe, and Gary Sheffield is a scorching 8-for-17 (.471) with a 1.415 OPS lifetime vs. Lowe. He best be in the lineup tonight.
Game two: Mike Pelfrey (4-0, 5.46 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (3-2, 2.01 ERA)
I like this matchup in that it pits two young pitchers who are going well right now, throw a lot of strikes, and are at similar points in their career. On any given day, either Pelfrey or Jurrjens can throw an absolute gem … and each seems to have matured to the point where you’re almost guaranteed to see a quality start at minimum. Though Big Pelf’s ERA is twice that of Jurrjens’, he’s pitched very well in his last three starts, and appears to be getting better as the season progresses. I don’t see him having a problem with the Braves’ unusually undisciplined lineup.
Game three: Jonathan Niese (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Jo-Jo Reyes (0-2, 5.48 ERA)
Niese looked good in his first MLB start of 2009, but it was against a very bad Pittsburgh Pirates lineup — one that may not have been any better than he’d faced in AAA. Reyes is evovling into an eternal enigma, a hard-throwing lefty with great stuff who can be effectively wild (can you say “Oliver Perez”?). This game is an absolute tossup — Reyes could no-hit the Mets through 8, or he could be out of the game by the 8th hitter he faces. Conversely, Niese should be able to give the Mets at least five decent innings, and if his curveball is on, could give the Braves’ lefty-heavy lineup fits.
Brian McCann and Garrett Anderson are back from the DL, but Chipper Jones may be out a game or two with a hyperextended elbow, so Bobby Cox may not have his full lineup. When these two teams squared away last week, Atlanta looked like an underwhelming ballclub with weak fundamentals that might struggle to win 80 games this year. Assuming that remains the case, the Mets should plow through them once again and take at least two. Who knows, they may just sweep them.
Niese shut down the AAA Pirates, but the AAA Braves are a much better team. It will be a good test to see if Niese has what it takes to beat the “good bad teams.”
I wouldn’t put it past Lowe if he brings his A+ game to Citi tonight to show the Mets what they missed out on over the offseason. That said, I fully expect a dandy of a pitcher’s duel in game one with Johan toeing the rubber for NY. And with Pelf vs Jair tomorrow, this series will feature 6 starters who will likely be a part of this rivalry for at least another 4 years.
Tatis will be getting the start at 1st tonight.