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Mets bring the Wild Card hunt tour to Atlanta

Will their last trip to Turner Field be the best one yet?

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

They say parting is such sweet sorrow. That’s especially true when the Mets are parting with a ballpark that has caused them and their fans such angst since it was erected in 1996 as Centennial Olympic Stadium. In 1997, the Braves began playing in the newly minted Turner Field and rolled off the final nine of their amazing 14 consecutive division titles. Although recently the park and the team that plays in it have been more friendly to the Mets, back in Atlanta’s glory years Turner Field was a house of horrors where New York baseball dreams went to die. Unless, that is, those dreams belonged to the Yankees, who won the World Series over the Braves in 1996 and 1999.

But the Mets were often stymied at Turner Field, even when they had teams that seemed good enough to conquer their rivals. In 1998, the Mets missed the postseason by a single game and went 0-6 at Turner Field, including a brutal sweep during the final three games of the season. In 1999 and 2000, the Mets combined to go 3-9 in the unfriendly confines despite qualifying for the postseason. Of course, when the two clubs met in the 1999 National League Championship Series, New York lost all three games in Atlanta, topped off by the still-haunting Game 6 defeat that ended the magical campaign. Only in 2000, when St. Louis disposed of the Braves before the Mets could run into them, did the Mets win the NL pennant.

Of course, now that the Mets have started to see some success at Turner Field, it’s time to tear it down in favor of the brand new SunTrust Park, due to open in time for 2017 Opening Day. While the Braves have struggled over the past three years, they did so under the guise that they were rebuilding to have a competitive, young team in place for the opening of the new digs. One of the players at the heart of that rebuild is Dansby Swanson, the top pick of the 2015 draft who was acquired when Atlanta dealt Shelby Miller and Ender Inciarte to Arizona last December.

After hitting .261/.342/.402 in 84 games with Double-A Mississippi, the Vanderbilt alumnus was called up in mid-August to show what he can do at the highest level. So far, he hasn’t blown anyone away, but he’s starting to get hot with two hits and a home run in each of his last two games. Considering how Miller has pitched this season, the Swanson acquisition looks like a major steal for Atlanta if he does anything more than scratch the surface of his huge potential.

The Mets, meanwhile, continue to rely on veterans like Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and the suddenly hot Curtis Granderson. Considered one of New York’s most valuable players last year, Granderson has done a lot of the same things this year that made his 2015 so memorable. He’s still walking at a great clip and hitting for 25-home-run power, but a six-percent drop in line drive rate has caused his BABIP to crater to .240, which makes it tough to get on base even when you’re walking 11 percent of the time.

There are also some fans who will point to Granderson’s 45 RBI as evidence that he is not being clutch enough, but that is probably more due to his time spent in the leadoff spot and poor sequencing luck than anything else. The good news is that the 35-year-old outfielder has hit a home run in each of his last three games to give the Mets some pop out of the cleanup spot.

Probable Pitchers

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Braves Probable Starter
September 9, 2016 7:35 PM SNY Robert Gsellman Julio Teheran
September 10, 2016 7:10 PM WPIX Seth Lugo John Gant
September 11, 2016 1:35 PM SNY Bartolo Colon Williams Perez

Julio Teheran

Important stats: 158.2 IP, 143 K, 34 BB, 19 HR, 3.01 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 1.03 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), slider (81 mph), curveball (72 mph), two-seam fastball (90 mph)

During back-to-back starts against the Mets in late June, Teheran was absolutely dominant, hurling a complete game one-hitter on June 19 and then eight more scoreless innings on June 25. The right-hander has cooled off since then, in part due to a lat injury that knocked him out for two weeks in August, but he looked stellar again in his most recent outing with six scoreless innings against Philadelphia.

Mets opponent: Robert Gsellman was even better in his second big league start than he was in his first. This time he held Washington to just one run in six frames. The shaggy right-hander walked three batters in that game, but he helped make up for it by getting a lot of ground balls, a strategy that will serve him well as guy who doesn’t miss many bats.

John Gant

Important stats: 38.1 IP, 39 K, 12 BB, 5 HR, 4.70 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 1.38 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (92 mph), changeup (80 mph), curveball (75 mph)

The former Mets prospect has played a lot of roles this year. He’s been shuttled back and forth between the major league bullpen, the major league rotation, the Triple-A Gwinnett rotation, and the disabled list. For now he’s back in the big league rotation with Aaron Blair and Rob Whalen both on the DL. Gant’s strikeout rate with the Braves has been solid this year, and in his start at Citi Field on June 17 he made his longest outing of the year with one run allowed in six-and-two-thirds innings.

Mets opponent: All Seth Lugo did during his last start was continue to be awesome by holding Washington to one run in seven innings. The 26-year-old from Louisiana has all the makings of a regression candidate with a high strand rate, low BABIP, and low home-run-to-fly-ball rate, but Mets fans should be happy to ride this crazy Lugo train as far as it will take them. If all the team’s pitchers are healthy, he’s probably a reliever next year, anyway.

Williams Perez

Important stats: 51.0 IP, 25 K, 14 BB, 6 HR, 5.47 ERA, 4.64 FIP, 1.31 WHIP

Favorite pitches: sinker (91 mph), curveball (77 mph), changeup (79 mph)

After missing three months with a shoulder injury, Perez made his first start back from the DL on Tuesday. It didn’t go too well, as the 25-year-old Venezuelan allowed six runs in fewer than three innings. Perez is very reliant on his 58-percent ground ball rate to get outs, so if the Mets can lift the ball, they should find success.

Mets opponent: Fortune has smiled upon Bartolo Colon this year, as his ERA is nearly a run lower than last year’s despite the rest of his stats being very similar across the board. Of his last seven outings, five are quality starts, which is a sign that the unstoppable right-hander could be growing stronger as the season wears on.

Prediction: Mets win two of three.

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