The third series between the two tops teams in the NL East commences on Tuesday at 7:35 PM in Atlanta. The Mets are coming off a fine series against the crosstown Yankees, while the Braves limp back from Fenway, taking a beating in Boston in two out of the three games. The weekend’s events extended the space between the two teams, as the Mets remain on top of the East with the Braves behind by two and a half games.
Herewith is a quick preview of the series.
Game One: Jorge Sosa vs. Kyle Davies
Just when we were ready to anoint John Maine the NL’s All-Star starter, he strings together two consecutive awful starts. With that in mind, I’ll continue to reserve judgment on Jorge Sosa, who is pitching way over his head.
Kyle Davies represents an enigma of sorts. He’s pitched two masterful games — one against the Mets — but has been mediocre to terrible in his other five starts, often having trouble getting through five innings. He may well be the Braves’ version of Ollie Perez.
Game Two: Oliver Perez vs. Chuck James
The “good” Ollie has been showing up more often than not, and the Braves have already seen him at his best this year. Chuck James is similar to Davies in that he’s pitched two magnificent games, but not nearly as well in his other seven starts. However, he’s been mostly mediocre as opposed to terrible, and he usually pitches into the sixth. He was banged around for ten hits, three homers, and six runs in five innings in his last start against the Mets.
Game Three: Tom Glavine vs. John Smoltz
This is getting to be a habit; once again the feature game pits pals, former teammates, and team aces Glavine and Smoltz. Smoltz served well in his role as stopper in Boston, subverting a massacre by shutting out the Red Sox on Satruday for seven innings of three-hit ball. He pitched poorly in his last start against the Mets, but eeked out a no-decision as the Braves stole the game by scoring six runs off the Mets’ bullpen. Considering that Glavine is unlikely to pitch past the sixth, and Smoltz is unlikely to be ineffective against the Mets a second time, it could once again be a battle of the bullpens. Hopefully the Mets will have worn out the Braves relievers in the first two games.
David Wright is back, and in a homerun-hitting frenzy. Jose Reyes is batting .400 over the last seven games, and both Endy Chavez and Paul LoDuca are in a groove.
However, Carlos Beltran has cooled off lately, and Carlos Delgado is sputtering like an old Ford with vapor lock — he surges for a moment, then stops. Additionally, though Damion Easley pops a ball into the bleachers every once in a while, his .270 batting average isn’t enough to overcome his deficiencies in the field. Between Easley and Delgado on the right side of the infield, I’ve seen better range from lawn chairs.
Matt Diaz is batting .526 in his last seven games; I’d say that qualifies as “hot”. Edgar Renteria is hitting .414 and Jeff Francoeur .310 over the same span. Larry “Chipper” Jones is also swinging a hot stick, at .367 over the last week, and newcomer Willie Harris has been seeing more playing time based on a 10-for-29 streak.
Want to know cold? Ask Andruw Jones, who is 3-for-his-last-29 and struck out 5 times in Sunday’s finale at Fenway. Kelly Johnson is cooling off as well, thank goodness. Hopefully the Mets starters will remember to throw anything but a strike for the first pitch of the game.
For the Mets to take two of three from the Braves, the bats need to beat up on Davies and James early and often, and get into Braves bullpen, which has been vulnerable in the middle innings. The Mets do not want to be down a few runs in the eighth, because Rafael Soriano has been lights out and Bob Wickman is the Inspector Clouseau of closing — somehow bungling his way into a save.