The penultimate series of the season begins on Monday with the Mets hosting the Atlanta Braves in what was originally scheduled to be a three-game series. Thanks to a postponement earlier in the year, the two second-division squads will now play four games. The first two will both take place on Monday during a doubleheader that is hard to imagine either side getting hyped up for.
Playing two baseball games in a row doesn’t sound too appealing when you’ve already been eliminated from the postseason, but for fans, this might be one last time to take off from school or work and enjoy some extended summer weather while watching a baseball game without the stresses of a pennant race.
Both Terry Collins and Atlanta manager Brian Snitker have been working to get inexperienced players into the lineup recently, but there could be even fewer familiar names on the scorecard than usual due to Monday’s twin bill. On the Atlanta side, Matt Kemp probably won’t be asked to test his injured hamstring in anything other than a pinch-hitting spot. That means we could see Lane Adams or Jace Peterson manning left field for the majority of this series. Adams is particularly interesting because he’s a 27-year-old journeyman who had just three plate appearances in the majors before this fateful campaign. The Oklahoma native has taken advantage of this extended look with a 105 wRC+ and his first three big league home runs. That’s just the kind of tale that baseball fans long for when their team is playing out the stretch.
The Mets version of Adams is probably Phillip Evans, the generic-sounding infielder who has picked up some at-bats since making his major league debut on September 8. Although he’s only 25 years old, Evans has is now in his seventh season with New York after being selected in the 15th round of the 2011 Draft. When you look at some of the campaigns he put together in the lower levels of the farm system, it’s pretty amazing that Evans has made it this far. For this big league cup of coffee he has to thank a breakout at Double-A in 2016 that saw him hit .335/.374/.485 in 96 games.
It’s highly unlikely that Evans suddenly develops the power he would need to make it as a regular player at the highest level, but rooting for him to pop his first major league home run will probably be more fun than watching Asdrubal Cabrera start for one more week.
Monday, September 25 (Game 1): Lucas Sims vs. Chris Flexen, 4:10 p.m. on SNY
Sims: 49.0 IP, 37 K, 17 BB, 8 HR, 5.14 ERA, 5.05 FIP, 1.41 WHIP
After getting the call for his major league debut after the trade deadline, Sims worked as a starter throughout August before shifting to the bullpen for most of September. His return to the rotation came last Wednesday, and it went rather well, as Sims threw five innings against Washington with six strikeouts, two walks, and one run allowed. That’s one fewer run than he let up in a two-inning relief appearance against the Mets on September 16.
Flexen: 41.2 IP, 29 K, 30 BB, 9 HR, 7.13 ERA, 6.87 FIP, 1.99 WHIP
Flexen was a disaster the last two times he took the hill as a starter, but in five relief innings since then, he’s allowed just one run. That might be a very small sample size, but hopefully it’s enough to give the 23-year-old the lift he needs to handle what should be the final start of his campaign. No matter how Flexen’s outing goes, he’ll probably begin 2018 in the minor leagues, but his future will seem brighter if he’s able to control the strike zone effectively on Monday.
Monday, September 25 (Game 2): Max Fried vs. Seth Lugo, after Game 1 on SNY
Fried: 16.1 IP, 13 K, 10 BB, 3 HR, 4.41 ERA, 5.97 FIP, 1.65 WHIP
It will be a long layover for Fried on Monday, as he hasn’t pitched since throwing a scoreless inning in relief on September 16 against the Mets. Before that, he made two big league starts in which he allowed a total of five runs in eight-and-two-thirds frames. Like Flexen, Fried spent most of this season at Double-A and could be punching a little above his weight in this game. Hopefully the Mets can take advantage in the nightcap.
Lugo: 91.1 IP, 74 K, 25 BB, 12 HR, 5.03 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 1.43 WHIP
Lugo probably won’t pitch well enough or poorly enough in this start to give us a clue on his 2018 role, but we might as well try to learn something. Considering the Louisiana native’s versatility and his contract situation, he should be a useful puzzle piece for years to come. Even if that spin rate doesn’t translate into star power, the Mets will find something to do with Lugo.
Tuesday, September 26: R.A. Dickey vs. Rafael Montero, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Dickey: 183.1 IP, 132 K, 67 BB, 25 HR, 4.32 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 1.39 WHIP
Dickey has just one start this season in which he’s failed to strike out a batter, and that game on September 16, the last time he faced the Mets. Maybe that had something to do with the coaching staff’s familiarity with Dickey, or maybe it was just a good day for the orange and blue. Either way, New York whipped its old hero for five runs in five innings. However, the resilient knuckleballer bounced back with eight strong innings against Washington in his very next outing. Seeing as how he’s one of the oldest players in baseball today, this could be the last time Dickey toes the rubber at Citi Field.
Montero: 110.1 IP, 108 K, 61 BB, 11 HR, 5.30 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.72 WHIP
The same might be true for Montero, but odds are he still has a few Queens appearances left in him after this week. The Dominican right-hander has been riding the struggle bus ever since he almost pitched a complete game in Cincinnati, but you never know when he’ll choose to flash his upside again. Like Lugo, we’re not sure what Montero will be doing with the Mets next year. The problem with Montero is that he’s never proven to be an especially effective relief pitcher.
Wednesday, September 27: Sean Newcomb vs. Robert Gsellman, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Newcomb: 95.0 IP, 101 K, 53 BB, 10 HR, 4.26 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.57 WHIP
It might be too early to pencil Newcomb in as a future pitching star for Atlanta, but he’s been consistent this month and has done a good job lowering his walk rate after struggling with his control in July and August. The southpaw’s size and strikeout stuff at age 24 give him a lot of upside, and it also doesn’t hurt that he’s pitched very well against the Mets in two starts this year.
Gsellman: 113.2 IP, 78 K, 41 BB, 17 HR, 5.38 ERA, 5.02 FIP, 1.52 WHIP
Strikeout-to-walk ratio is going to be a major point of improvement for Gsellman next year if he is going to succeed in New York’s rotation. Since coming off the disabled list in August, he’s failed to strike out five batters in a game, but he does have one start with five walks on his resume. Gsellman has pitched more than twice as many innings this year than in his successful 2016 campaign, so it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be an above-average starter again.
By the way, we’re having a special AARGH on Wednesday to say goodbye to Citi Field for the year, so come on down and say hi to your favorite community members!
Prediction: Banana split!
How will the Mets fare against Atlanta this week?
This poll is closed
Chop them down with a sweep!
Win three of four.
Keith’s favorite: a banana split!
Win one of four.
We’ll have more nice things to enjoy next year.