Quick Preview: Mets vs. Braves

braves-57-logoThe Mets are in Atlanta for the next few days to play the Atlanta Braves.

Unfortunately for us, these games mean little, since the Mets have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason and the Braves are 6 games back in the Wild Card standings with 19 to play. Yes, the Braves still have a shot, but the margin isn’t slim enough at this juncture for me to think “ooh, the Mets can play the spoiler!”.

That said, I’m not sure how to look at this series against one of our “arch rivals”. Funny, isn’t it, that the Mets and Braves are playing against each other in a meaningless series in September? Who woulda thunk it back in March?

Game One: Pat Misch (1-2, 3.86 ERA) vs. Tommy Hanson (9-3, 2.83 ERA)

Misch will make another attempt at becoming the next Jamie Moyer, pitching against a lineup that enjoys seeing him on the mound — the Braves have 7 hits in 3 innings against him as a reliever, batting .583. He needs pinpoint control of his fastball and at least one of his offspeed pitches to succeed. Meanwhile, we get another look at the Tommy Gun, who has so far fulfilled the expectations preceding him as Atlanta’s top pitching prospect.

Game Two: Bobby Parnell (3-8, 5.49 ERA) vs. Derek Lowe (14-9, 4.47 ERA)

The experiment continues, but how can it help Parnell? I don’t see him making progress unless he makes a conscious effort to throw more change-ups and finds a spot in the strike zone he can hit consistently. His previous strategy of picking at the corners, then laying one over the middle, and mixing in an occasional hanging slider, is not one for success. If he’s going to get hit, I’d prefer to see him get hit experimenting with the change-up and spotting his best fastball consistently in a particular zone. He’s getting nowhere fast trying to hit spots all over the strike zone — choose one, hammer it until you can do it with your eyes closed, then try another.

While Derek Lowe is not having an outstanding year, he does have 14 wins and is 23 frames short of a 200-inning season. Parnell and Mike Pelfrey would do well to watch him work — they might learn something.

Game Three: Nelson Figueroa (2-5, 4.57 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (11-10, 2.81 ERA)

Is it depressing to anyone else that the Braves will be sending two excellent young pitchers to the mound in three days — both with ERAs under three? The Braves have a pair of 23-year-olds already pitching at the level we’d hoped to see Mike Pelfrey (25 years old) and/or John Maine (28) — and add 24-year-old Bobby Parnell to that list as well. Jurrjens, by the way, has 186 IP, and looking at Lowe’s 177 and Javier Vazquez’s 197, the Braves may have THREE 200-inning starters when it’s all said and done. The Mets will have none. That’s part of the reason the Braves are still hanging on to postseason hopes in mid-September while the Mets are looking forward to golfing in the early fall.

Oh, back to the matchup. Nelson Figueroa needs to continue his workmanlike effort and mysterious voodoo to keep the Braves batters at bay and put another notch in his belt. At this point we know he will compete and usually won’t embarrass himself — but he needs a few more strong outings to earn a shot at a long relief / spot starter role in 2010. Keep plugging, Figgy!

Series Notes

So, the Braves weren’t so stupid when they said Adam LaRoche was a second-half hitter. He’s mashed 10 homers in 144 at-bats since returning to Atlanta, with a .333 AVG, .404 OBP, .590 SLG and 27 RBI in 39 games. Not too shabby for a late-season rental.

There’s an outside shot that the Braves join the Mets as the only teams in MLB to finish the season without a 20-HR hitter. Brian McCann leads the team with 18, followed by Chipper Jones’ 16 and Yunel Escobar’s 14. Did you know there are 41 NL hitters with 18+ homeruns?

Chipper Jones has a strained groin, and is questionable for all three games. Stay on the bench and rest, Larry.

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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.