Not many baseball fans thought the Braves would be playing in October this year, and it turns out that those fans were right. However, Atlanta has been a surprisingly tough out in 2017 thanks to an underrated cast of batters surrounding Freddie Freeman that has helped offset a disappointing campaign from former top prospect Dansby Swanson.
Swanson is old news now, though. The new middle-infield sensation is 20-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies, and he’s made a great impression on Braves fans since debuting with the major league club at the start of August. Not only is Albies a wizard with the glove, but he’s shown the ability to draw walks and hit for contact as well. He’s currently riding a 12-game hitting streak and is batting .327/.414/.469 this month.
With Albies and Ender Inciarte getting on base at the top of Brian Snitker’s batting order, it’s no wonder why Freeman is on pace to drive in more than 20 runs this month (his high RBI month for the season is August with 17). The Mets just got done playing two series with Cincinnati’s incredible slugger Joey Votto, and Freeman isn’t far behind Votto in the “best hitter on Earth” conversation. The Atlanta first baseman has played 13 games in September, and he has multiple hits in seven of them.
While Mets pitching was hammered at Wrigley Field this week, the offense hasn’t been bad when you consider the amount off talent that’s been traded away or placed on the disabled list. Asdrubal Cabrera is playing like he wants to be a Met next year by hitting .410/.465/.718 this month with six multi-hit games of his own. In the prospect department, Dominic Smith has three home runs in his last four games to boost his isolated power past the .200 level. Both Cabrera and Smith will have even more of a load to carry this weekend, as Amed Rosario and Travis d’Arnaud could both miss time with injuries suffered during Thursday evening’s defeat.
Unfortunately, the offensive developments haven’t been backed up by stellar bullpen play. It certainly would have helped if the starters were able to work deeper into games, but it’s still inexcusable for the motley crew of relief pitchers to give up 22 runs in a three-game series like it just did at Wrigley Field. Paul Sewald in particular is having a bad time on the mound with 12 runs surrendered in his last five appearances. That’s tough sledding for a guy who at times this season has looked like a decent set-up man.
In the Atlanta bullpen, Arodys Vizcaino has taken over the closer role since the trade deadline even though former closer Jim Johnson is still on the active roster. While Johnson didn’t pitch well enough this season to make him appealing to other teams, Vizcaino has thrived with 57 strikeouts, 17 walks, and a 2.53 ERA in 53.1 total innings.
Friday, September 15: Rafael Montero vs. Sean Newcomb, 7:35 p.m. on SNY
Montero: 101.2 IP, 100 K, 57 BB, 10 HR, 5.05 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.69 WHIP
Montero allowed just one run in five innings during his latest outing against Cincinnati, but he also walked five batters for the second time in a row to bring his season average to 5.05 walks per nine. That’s not a good look for the enigmatic right-hander who has confounded Mets fans all year round. Still, if I was power ranking Mets starters right now — including guys on the disabled list — Montero would make my top five, and that’s not good news for the rotation as a whole.
Newcomb: 84.1 IP, 88 K, 50 BB, 10 HR, 4.38 ERA, 4.60 FIP, 1.61 WHIP
Back when Newcomb made his sterling debut against the Mets on June 10, we talked about how his control could be an issue for him, and that has turned out to be true. The young lefty is walking more batters per nine innings than Montero, but his strikeout stuff makes him a project worth keeping an eye on. Although Newcomb made it through six-and-one-third innings in his first career game, he hasn’t gone that deep since then, and he hasn’t recorded a quality start since August 15.
Saturday, September 16: Jacob deGrom vs. R.A. Dickey, 7:10 p.m. on PIX11
deGrom: 188.1 IP, 221 K, 57 BB, 26 HR, 3.63 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 1.21 WHIP
After working through an up-and-down August, deGrom shockingly gave up nine runs to the Phillies in his first September outing. However, he bounced back with a strong performance on Sunday against Cincinnati. Now on the cusp of his first 200-inning campaign, deGrom has already set a career high for strikeouts in a season, and he needs one more win to set career high in that category as well.
Dickey: 170.1 IP, 128 K, 65 BB, 24 HR, 4.28 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 1.41 WHIP
The undisputed Cy Young Award winner of 2012 hasn’t pitched against the Mets since making back-to-back starts at the end of April and beginning of May in which he allowed six runs over 11 innings. Dickey’s return to the National League East hasn’t gone super smoothly, but he has done a good job keeping the Phillies in their place. In three starts against New York’s rival this year, the knuckleballer has 22 innings pitched with just three runs allowed.
Sunday, September 17: Robert Gsellman vs. Julio Teheran, 1:35 p.m. on SNY
Gsellman: 101.2 IP, 71 K, 38 BB, 16 HR, 5.58 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 1.60 WHIP
I must have been typing too loudly when I commented on Gsellman’s improving control earlier this week, because he went out and walked five batters in Chicago without making it to the fifth inning. Some fans might be surprised to learn that the 24-year-old has a lower BABIP in 2017 than he did in 2016, but drops in strikeouts and ground ball rate have helped contribute to the crushing amount of home runs he’s allowed this year.
Teheran: 169.1 IP, 136 K, 64 BB, 30 HR, 4.57 ERA, 5.11 FIP, 1.37 WHIP
Steep increases in walks and home runs allowed have made this a sour campaign for Teheran, but lately he’s looked like his old self with a 2.08 ERA in his last four outings. He’s also pitched pretty well against the Mets this year, with nine runs allowed in 24.1 innings spread over four starts. The 26-year-old Colombian still has two years left on his contract after this one, so the Braves are probably counting on him being a part of their next postseason contender.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
How will the Mets fare this weekend in Atlanta?
This poll is closed
Party down south with a sweep!
Win two of three.
Win one of three.
That four-game winning streak seems like a really long time ago.