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New York Mets get another chance to beat Atlanta Braves in upcoming four-game series

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Last time the Mets met the Braves, the series ended in disaster for New York.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn't been long since the Mets faced the Braves in a series that the Queens faithful would like to forget, but a lot of stuff has happened since then, so let's get to the headlines.

Matt Reynolds plays left field for first time, hits home run

After the three-game flop against Atlanta, it was pleasantly surprising to see the Mets to sweep the Royals in their two-game set on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it wasn't every surprising how they got the job done. New York got solid pitching from Noah Syndergaard and four home runs from its scuffling lineup. In fact, the Mets only scored a single run during the two games that wasn't via home run. That was on a fourth-inning, two-out single by James Loney on Wednesday. The other five runs were driven in by the long ball.

Of those home runs, the most shocking was hit by Reynolds, the reserve infielder who was starting in left field in place of Michael Conforto against tough lefty Danny Duffy during Wednesday's matinee. It's cool that Reynolds was able to come through to give New York the lead in a tie game, but his very presence in the lineup says a lot about the team's confidence in Conforto, who has been mired in a miserable, two-month slump. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that the young outfielder has got to hit his way out of the doldrums, but whether he would be best served doing that in the majors or at Triple-A Las Vegas is up for debate. With four not-so-intimidating right-handed pitchers on tap for Atlanta, Conforto should be give every opportunity to show he belongs with the big league club this weekend.

Mallex Smith is out, but Jace Peterson is so hot

A long season in Atlanta got a little longer on Sunday when the Braves learned that Mallex Smith had fractured his thumb as a result of being hit by a pitch in the final win over the Mets. Smith provided not only some speed and excitement to an otherwise stagnant Braves offense, but he also represented the hope of a promising future to a franchise in the middle of a rebuild.

With Smith expected to miss at least eight weeks of action, we could be seeing a lot of Emilio Bonifacio this weekend. The former Marlins infielder/outfielder was called up to take Smith's place in the outfield after bouncing around the league quite a bit during the past three seasons. At Triple-A Gwinnett, he was hitting a very modest .270/.321/.319, so we're not expecting much.

Someone who could shine in Smith's absence is Jace Peterson, the second baseman who was recently moved into the leadoff spot, where the team was starting to play Smith regularly before his injury. Although Peterson spend almost the entire month of May in the minor leagues, he has hit in 10 of the 11 games he has played in since being called back up on June 10. Once a promising prospect in the San Diego organization, Peterson hit .239/.314/.335 during 2015, his first full season in the big leagues. He's probably feeling better now after hitting a big home run and leading Atlanta to a win over Miami on Tuesday.

That victory was the sixth in a row for the Braves, but on Wednesday they were shut out by Miami southpaw Adam Conley for eight innings of a 3-0 defeat. Perhaps that game took enough wind out of Atlanta's sails to give the Mets a chance at some wins during this upcoming battle.

Probable pitchers

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Braves Probable Starter
June 23, 2016 7:10 PM SNY Matt Harvey Matt Wisler
June 24, 2016 7:35 PM SNY Steven Matz Aaron Blair
June 25, 2016 7:15 PM FOX Jacob deGrom Julio Teheran
June 26, 2016 1:35 PM WPIX Bartolo Colon Bud Norris
Matt Wisler

Important stats: 83.0 IP, 60 K, 22 BB, 13 HR, 4.23 ERA, 4.62 FIP, 1.18 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (93 mph), slider (82 mph), two-seam fastball (93 mph)

Just like with that bad man Julio Teheran, Wisler's last start against the Mets was one of the best of his career. The young right-hander allowed just one hit in eight scoreless innings back on May 3, and the outing seemed to be a turning point for him. The game at Citi Field was the first of six straight quality starts for Wisler, but then he got knocked around by the Dodgers and Cubs during a pair of disastrous starts in which he allowed a total of 13 runs and six home runs in eight innings. He has since righted himself with a solid performance against Cincinnati, but hopefully the Mets will be able to exploit the weaknesses found by their fellow contenders in their second meeting with Wisler this year.

Mets opponent: Just when we thought that Matt Harvey was back for good (and why not, after three straight dominant outings?), he went out and allowed four runs in six innings to Atlanta's anemic offense. Even though Harvey is getting burned by a low strand rate and above-average BABIP this year, he's also creating his own problems by missing fewer bats and allowing lots of hard contact. His 3.64 FIP compared to a 4.76 ERA suggests that there's better days ahead for the right-hander, but that doesn't guarantee that Harvey is going to get back to being one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Aaron Blair

Important stats: 46.1 IP, 27 K, 26 BB, 7 HR, 7.19 ERA, 5.80 FIP, 1.71 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), changeup (85 mph), curveball (78 mph), two-seam fastball (91 mph)

In two starts against the Mets this season, Blair has been just okay, and that's not good for the Mets considering how the rookie has been versus the rest of the National League. Although Blair was thought of as one of the prizes in the deal that sent Shelby Miller to Arizona, it's hard to name one thing that he's doing well during his first stint in the majors. Hey, at least the Braves aren't missing Miller, who is a year older than Blair and has been almost as putrid on the mound.

Mets opponent: Steven Matz left his last start with elbow soreness, but he's good to go on Friday after a recent bullpen session went off without a hitch. The young lefty will be facing the Braves for the second straight time and the fourth time this year. All three of the previous matchups resulted in quality starts for Matz, so he's a good bet to give New York at least six solid innings, even if he hasn't been as dominant lately as he was during the first two months of the campaign.

Julio Teheran

Important stats: 98.0 IP, 92 K, 24 BB, 13 HR, 2.66 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 0.91 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), slider (81 mph), two-seam fastball (89 mph), changeup (82 mph)

Teheran couldn't have been much better against the Mets last Sunday, when he struck out seven batters and allowed just one man to reach base in the complete game shutout. It wasn't a total fluke, either, as the right-hander has been pitching very well for most of the past two months. And when a pitcher is playing this well for a team as low in the standings as the Braves, trade rumors are bound to arise. However, with Teheran's contract extending through an affordable club option in 2020, he's an asset that Atlanta wouldn't mind holding onto in preparation for the future.

Mets opponent: Although deGrom struggled with his velocity and strikeout rate earlier this season, his numbers now resemble those from his outstanding 2015 campaign, and that's a great thing for Mets fans who have been treated to recent injury scares in the starting rotation. With five straight quality starts under his belt, deGrom has become a model of consistency, but we can always use another truly dominant outing to remind us of how awesome he is.

Bud Norris

Important stats: 63.1 IP, 52 K, 28 BB, 6 HR, 4.69 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 1.45 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (93 mph), slider (85 mph), two-seam fastball (94 mph)

Norris was forced to the bullpen following a terrible April that saw him give up 23 runs in 22.2 innings, but he has since returned to Atlanta's rotation due to injuries suffered by Mike Foltynewicz and Williams Perez. The starting pitching thing is going much better this time around, as Norris has 21 strikeouts, eight walks, and a 2.82 ERA since rejoining the rotation on June 4. If he keeps this up with a strong outing against the Mets, Norris could look to get traded ahead of the August 1 deadline like he was back in 2013, when a rebuilding Houston team dealt him to Baltimore.

Mets opponent: Good news, everyone! No, seriously, this is indeed good news. Bartolo Colon is okay after taking a line drive to the pitching hand during his latest start, and he's on track to start Sunday in the series finale at Atlanta. The extremely abbreviated outing on Tuesday night put a halt to all the momentum Big Sexy had been building up, so hopefully he can get back to business without much of a hitch. In his only start against the Braves this season, Colon struck out seven batters and walked none in eight shutout innings.

Bullpens

The Braves are deficient in many areas, but one of those is not left-handed bullpen arms. The team currently holds three southpaws on its major league roster, and two of them have done a very good job so far this year. Hunter Cervenka is second on the team in pitching appearances behind Alexi Ogando and has 29 strikeouts in just 21.1 innings this year. Against the Mets last weekend, he only threw five pitches to two batters, but managed to record a pair of holds in the process. Meanwhile, former Nationals farmhand Ian Krol seems to be improving on his disappointing work in Detroit over the past two seasons. He has 23 strikeouts and six walks in 17 innings this year with a 2.65 ERA. The third lefty in the bullpen was Eric O'Flaherty. He was predictably pitching very poorly before hitting the disabled list with a strained knee and being replaced by another former Mets lefty, Dario Alvarez.

The Mets' bullpen was having a rough time lately, but then the unit came up big on Tuesday night by pitching a virtual complete game to defeat the Royals and snap New York's three-game losing streak. The first man out of the pen after Colon left due to injury was Hansel Robles, who used a surprisingly nasty slider to strike out six batters and get through the fourth inning. Erik Goeddel followed with two scoreless frames before Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia threw an inning each to finish the game. After a disheartening sweep at the hands of the Braves, an improbable win like that one might have been just what the Mets needed to get their campaign moving in the right direction again.

Prediction: Mets win three of four.

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