clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Will Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey emerge in Atlanta?

Two of New York's top starters have a chance to get back on track versus a struggling Braves offense.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets have done a lot during their current road trip to convince fans that they shouldn't worry about an offense that produced so little during the first eight games of the season. Home run after home run flew into the Philadelphia night, and 12 dingers later, New York's lineup looks like an unstoppable juggernaut. It's only a matter of time until we start complaining about how the Mets are swinging for the fences all the time and don't get base hits with runners in scoring position...

Wait, you mean that is already happening? Geez, this town always does find something to complain about.

Something a little more worrisome has been the state of New York's pitching staff. The highlight of the team on paper hasn't been all that outstanding aside from three dominant outings from Noah Syndergaard. That's because Jacob deGrom has already missed time due to a lat injury and the birth of his child, while Matt Harvey has struck out just nine batters while allowing 11 earned runs in his three starts. That's not the rate we've come accustomed to seeing from the star right-hander. The list of Mets pitchers with more strikeouts than Harvey includes Logan Verrett, Antonio Bastardo, and Hansel Robles.

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Braves Probable Starter
April 22, 2016 7:35 PM SNY Matt Harvey Bud Norris
April 23, 2016 7:10 PM WPIX Steven Matz Jhoulys Chacin
April 24, 2016 1:35 PM WPIX Jacob deGrom TBD

There looks to be good news on the horizon, however, for both deGrom and Harvey. The former has seen improved health from both his lat and his child, while the latter has supposedly made an adjustment to his pitching mechanics that will lead to better production. Mets fans are looking forward to both right-handers pitching well this weekend in Atlanta, where they face a Braves team that has struggled on offense almost as much as the Phillies we just got through with.

Through 15 games, the first nine of which were losses, Atlanta has hit just three home runs as a team, or exactly half as many as the Mets hit on Tuesday night. That total includes just one homer from Freddie Freeman, who is hitting .163/.328/.245 so far.

Perhaps the only Braves player slugging above expectations is veteran leadoff man Nick Markakis, who is hitting a robust .308/.419/.481 with seven strikeouts, nine walks, and nine doubles. His ability to get on base and hit line drives could make him a thorn in the Mets' side as well as a potential trade chip with two years and $21 million remaining on his contract after 2016.

The rest of Atlanta's lineup resembles that of a Triple-A squad thanks to a hamstring injury to offseason acquisition Ender Inciarte and a sentence of administrative leave (due to a domestic violence case) being served by Cuban import Hector Olivera. One player who could take advantage of the gaps on the roster is 22-year-old outfielder Mallex Smith. He hasn't hit much in the majors so far, but Smith rose through the minors with impressive walk rates and stolen base totals. Last year at Double-A Mississippi, he posted a .418 OBP with 23 stolen bases in 240 plate appearances. Moving on to Triple-A Gwinnett, Smith maintained a .339 OBP and stole 34 bases in 307 plate appearances. If he's able to adjust to major league pitching, this is a kid who can be a force at the top of Atlanta's batting order for years to come.

A speedster like Smith is something that the Mets' offense lacks, but the impressive power throughout Terry Collins's lineup has recently become apparent. Continuing that surge will be important if the Mets hope to continue their winning ways against the Braves, who send Bud Norris and Jhoulys Chacin to the mound during the first two games of this series. Norris opening up his 2016 campaign with a quality start against Washington, but in his last two outings, he's been shelled for nine runs and three home runs in nine-and-one-third innings.

Chacin, meanwhile, has been impressive in the early going of 2016. After six years of toiling through altitude and injuries with Colorado, the Venezuelan right-hander spent most of 2015 with Arizona's Triple-A team. When he did appear in the majors with the Diamondbacks, Chacin was impressive enough to earn a shot with the the Braves this year. He has rewarded his new club with 14 strikeouts, zero walks, and just three runs allowed during his first two starts this year. As a ground-ball pitcher who is finally working in an environment that isn't a launching pad, the 28-year-old Chacin could be set up for a career year.

Once the Mets get into the Atlanta bullpen, they could be faced with a familiar face as Eric O'Flaherty is one of two lefties that Fredi Gonzalez can go to in relief. Coming into the season, it looked like New York's lineup would be vulnerable against southpaws, but with the way Neil Walker is hitting from the right side so far, that idea might be changing. When the Braves really need to shut down the Mets, they'll likely go with a right-handed reliever, since all three of their closer candidates pitch from that side.

Yet again we find the Mets matched against a National League East opponent that appears to have an inferior roster. If New York's performance against Philadelphia is any indication, it looks like the team is starting to take advantage of these opportunities. Hopefully the trend continues down south.

Prediction: Mets sweep!

Editor's Note: Win cash in your first daily fantasy baseball league or get your entry fee refunded! Offered in partnership with FanDuel. Here's the link.