Even after slipping a bit from their scorching start and losing two out of three to the Washington Nationals, the New York Mets remain 13-4 and in first place in the National League East, three games ahead of both the Phillies and the Atlanta Braves, who will be their opponents in a four-game weekend series. This long series against the Braves is an excellent opportunity for the Mets to continue to build a lead in the division early as the off days get fewer and farther between.
After having a nine-game winning streak snapped by the Brewers at Citi Field on Saturday, the Mets would go on to have a .500 home stand, pedestrian compared to the results they had been having in the early part of April. They dropped two out of three to the Washington Nationals, with the series opener ending in heartbreaking fashion. The Mets were up 6-1 with Jacob deGrom cruising, having struck out twelve Nationals in 7 1⁄3 innings. However, the Mets’ bullpen, which had otherwise been nearly spotless coming into the series, completely imploded to cough up the lead, as the Nationals scored six runs in the eighth inning and went on to win the game.
Zack Wheeler put up a solid start in the second game, but Gio Gonzalez’s dominance of the Mets continued and the Mets went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in a 5-2 loss. However, the Mets bounced back in grand fashion in the final game of the series with a big inning of their own assisted by a bullpen implosion, this time on the part of the Nationals. The Mets overcame the 3-0 deficit resulting from Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run homer against Steven Matz in the first inning and scored nine runs in the eighth inning, including a clutch go-ahead double by Juan Lagares and a grand slam by Yoenis Cespedes, to take the series finale and head to Atlanta on a high note.
The Atlanta Braves have surprised a lot of people early this season. They are currently fourth in baseball in oWAR, with a 113 wRC+ as a team coming into this series, just three points better than the Mets’ 110 wRC+ offense. Their pitching staff has a very impressive 3.27 ERA, just a tick higher than the Mets at a 3.17 ERA. On paper, based on the relatively small samples so far this season, they are pretty evenly matched clubs.
The Braves are coming off of a road trip in which they went 4-4 against the Nationals, Rockies, and Cubs—three very competitive ballclubs. Of course, this road trip included the infamous 14-10 loss to the Cubs, in which the Braves led 10-2, before the Cubs had a nine-run inning to come from behind. They went on to take two out of three from the Phillies before greeting the Mets for a four-game series tonight.
There is a chance the Braves may have to play this series without their best offensive weapon, Freddie Freeman, who was struck by a pitch in the wrist in last night’s game and immediately removed himself from the game. This was especially concerning for the Braves because Freeman has injured the same wrist before in the past. However, we learned this afternoon that test results have come back negative on Freeman’s wrist, with the Braves perhaps dodging a major bullet. He remains day-to-day, however, and it is unclear whether the Mets will see him in this series.
Thursday, April 19: Matt Wisler vs. Matt Harvey, 7:35 p.m. on SNY
Wisler (2018 in AAA): 12.0 IP, 11 K, 1 BB, 1 HR, 2.25 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 0.58 WHIP
The Braves have just announced that Matt Wisler will get tonight’s start in place of the injured Anibal Sanchez. He will be making his season debut for the Braves. The young righty did not see much game action in 2017, but in 2016 he started 26 games for the Braves to a 5.00 ERA, racking up 7 wins.
Harvey (2018): 15.0 IP, 13 K, 3 BB, 3 HR, 4.80 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 1.40 WHIP
After a very positive first start against the Phillies, Matt Harvey’s results have been less stellar since. He gave up four runs in five innings in both of his subsequent starts against the Nationals and Brewers. However, he did strike out six against the Brewers in his most recent start, demonstrating that he is still generating swings and misses on his pitches. SunTrust Park may not be the friendliest place for post-TOS Harvey to pitch, though.
Friday, April 20: Sean Newcomb vs. Noah Syndergaard, 7:35 p.m. on SNY
Newcomb (2018): 15 2⁄3 IP, 22 K, 8 BB, 2 HR, 4.02 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 1.53 WHIP
Newcomb had the no-decision in the 14-10 loss to the Cubs, striking out seven over 5 1⁄3 innings. It seemed like he was on his way to his second win of the year, but the Braves’ bullpen had other ideas. Like a lot of pitchers across baseball, the lefty has struggled with his pitch count and longevity in games. However, his strikeout rate is something to behold in the early going.
Syndergaard (2018): 21 1⁄3 IP, 33 K, 5 BB, 2 HR, 2.95 ERA, 2.08 FIP, 1.03 WHIP
Syndergaard, too, has had issues going deep into ballgames. However, despite only going 5 1⁄3 innings in his most recent start against the Brewers on Sunday, he had his nastiest stuff on display. Some people on the internet took notice. Thor is hoping to build on that start in Atlanta.
Saturday, April 21: Julio Teheran vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m. on WPIX
Teheran (2018): 20.0 IP, 21 K, 13 BB, 5 HR, 5.40 ERA, 6.36 FIP, 1.65 WHIP
This matchup is the most exciting one of the series, as the Braves’ ace matches up against one of the Mets’ two top starters. Although Mets fans have seen Teheran own the Mets many times throughout his career, the righty has struggled so far in 2018. His ugly stat line is largely due to a terrible performance in his first start of the year against the Nationals, in which he was knocked out after 2 1⁄3 innings, allowing 8 runs on 16 hits. Since then, he has been much better. He earned his first win of the season in his most recent start against the Phillies, in which he allowed one run on five hits in six innings of work.
deGrom (2018): 25.0 IP, 30 K, 6 BB, 2 HR, 3.38 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 1.08 WHIP
Like Syndergaard, the Mets’ other ace is coming off of his best start of the season so far. No one needs reminding that a win was stolen from deGrom on Monday, but he definitely looked like vintage deGrom, mowing down Nationals left and right. Mets fans are excited to see what he can do in his next start.
Sunday, April 22: Mike Foltynewicz vs. Zack Wheeler, 1:35 p.m. on WPIX
Foltynewicz (2018): 21 1⁄3 IP, 26 K, 9 BB, 2 HR, 2.53 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 1.27 WHIP
Mike Foltynewicz has been the strongest member of the starting rotation so far in this young season. The best of his four starts came with his most recent start, where he pitched to his first quality start of the season, throwing six innings against the Phillies and allowing just one run on four hits. However, he did also walk four in the start and has struggled somewhat with his command at times.
Wheeler (2018): 13.0 IP, 9 K, 4 BB, 1 HR, 2.77 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 1.00 WHIP
With Jason Vargas’ return to the Mets rotation looming, Zack Wheeler sets out to continue to prove that he belongs with the big league squad. And so far, he has done so, posting a sparkling 2.77 ERA in his two starts so far this year. Perhaps most encouraging of all, given his struggles with pitch count throughout his career, he went seven innings in his first start against Miami. He fared slightly less well against the Nationals, but still had a perfectly acceptable pitching line against a formidable offense, going six innings and giving up three runs on seven hits in the 5-2 loss.
Prediction: The Mets drop the series opener but go on to win the next three games to take three out of four in Atlanta.
How will the Mets fare against the Atlanta Braves in this series?
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Four-game sweep baby!
One is the loneliest number of wins.
Hotlanta gets the best of the Mets and the Braves win all four games.