The New York Mets (73-83) begin their final home stand of the 2018 season with a three-game set against the National League East champion Atlanta Braves (88-68). The Braves have thoroughly dominated the Mets this year, winning 12 out of 16 games. The two teams last squared off in early August, when Atlanta won three out of four at Citi Field.
The Mets took three of four from the Washington Nationals over the weekend to finish their ten-game road trip against the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, and Nationals at five and five. In the process, the Mets were able to help eliminate their division rivals from the playoff race. New York finished the year with 11 wins in 19 tries against Washington, which represents only the second time they have won the season series against the Nationals since 2010.
Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom — both vying for a chance to take home the National League Cy Young award — pitched on Thursday and Friday night, respectively. As has been the case for much of the year, deGrom outperformed Scherzer, pitching seven innings of one-run ball while setting a major league record for consecutive quality starts in a season. Scherzer struck out 13 in seven innings of work but gave up back-to-back home runs in the third, which allowed deGrom to maintain his sizable lead in ERA, ERA+, and FIP.
Several members of the offense excelled during the course of the four games, headlined once again with the team’s young core. Michael Conforto, whose second-half resurgence has been one of the season’s most enjoyable storylines to follow, went 5-for-14 with one home run, five runs batted in, and seven walks to lead the charge. Since July 20, Conforto is hitting .274/.353/.543 with a 142 wRC+ in 62 games and needs just one more long ball to set a new career high.
Jeff McNeil — who could easily have found himself in the National League Rookie of the Year race had he been called up in May instead of July — went 6-for-15, including his third four-hit game in 47 career starts. McNeil has now picked up at least two hits in 40% of his starts since joining the club. In 200 at-bats, he’s hitting .340/.394/.495 with a 2.5 fWAR and a 147 wRC+.
Although Brandon Nimmo contributed just one hit and saw his streak of reaching base in 28 consecutive games come to an end on Saturday, it’s still worth calling attention to his tremendous second-half play as well. In 49 games since the All-Star break, Nimmo is slashing .273/.432/.472 with a 156 wRC+ in 161 at-bats, proving that his first-half numbers were far from an aberration and that he can develop into a cornerstone offensive piece for the Mets for years to come.
The team was largely able to keep Bryce Harper in check over the four games, which made things significantly easier. Despite displaying some impressive warning track power and sending several balls to the base of the wall, he mustered only three hits, one run, and two runs batted in 16 at-bats. It’s anybody’s guess where Harper might end up next season, but there’s a good chance he will be wearing a different uniform the next time the Mets see him.
The Braves come into the series after clinching their first National League East division title since 2013. Atlanta took over first place from the Phillies on August 13 and never relinquished it, going 24-17 in 41 games since taking over the lead. Needing to win three out of four against the Phillies this weekend to close things out, the Braves swept their opponent and left no doubt that they were the best team in the East. They enter the series with the Mets as winners of their last five games.
In addition to winning the division crown, the Braves should factor heavily into several of the 2018 awards and honors. Brian Snitker, in his second full season as Braves manager, has a great chance of winning the National League Manager of the Year award. Although considered a long shot, Freddie Freeman will also get some votes for National League MVP honors. Freeman, the longest-tenured Braves player, leads the National League with 186 hits while slashing .311/.389/.506 with a 138 wRC+ and a 5.0 fWAR.
Meanwhile, outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is in a dead heat with Nationals outfielder Juan Soto for the National League Rookie of the Year award. The 20-year-old Acuña Jr. holds a lead over the 19-year-old Soto in wRC+ (145 vs. 144), fWAR (3.9 vs. 3.4), OPS (.926 vs. .914), home runs (26 vs. 20) and runs scored (77 vs. 72) while trailing him in batting average (.289 vs. .293) and on-base percentage (.364 vs .405).
Tuesday, September 25: Touki Toussaint vs. Noah Syndergaard, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Toussaint (2018): 23.0 IP, 23 K, 16 BB, 1 HR, 4.30 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 1.35 WHIP
The Mets will get their first look at Toussaint, who was the ranked seventh in the Braves’ farm system by MLB Pipeline coming into the 2018 season. He impressed in his MLB debut in August against the Miami Marlins, tossing six strong innings while allowing one earned run on two hits. He has since made four September appearances and has a 5.29 ERA and a 4.33 FIP in three starts and one relief appearances. His last appearance was his best of the month, as he earned the victory and struck out a career high eight in 5.2 innings of work against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Syndergaard (2018): 139.1 IP, 144 K, 37 BB, 9 HR, 3.36 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 1.27 WHIP
Syndergaard lasted just four innings — his shortest outing of the year — in his start against the Phillies on Wednesday and allowed three earned runs on six hits in the loss. He walked three batters in the game and exited with 89 pitches. After walking just 13 batters in his first 11 starts (2.0 BB/9), he has issued 15 base on balls in his last five starts (4.1 BB/9). In four September appearances, Syndergaard has a 3.31 ERA and a 3.70 FIP in 32.2 innings pitched. He has pitched six innings and allowed three earned runs in each of his two starts against the Braves this season.
Wednesday, September 26: Sean Newcomb vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Newcomb (2018): 158.1 IP, 151 K, 76 BB, 18 HR, 4.04 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 1.34 WHIP
It has been a tale of two halves for Newcomb this year, and the Braves are hoping that the first-half pitcher can resurface in time for the start of the playoffs. Newcomb sported a 2.59 ERA and 3.43 FIP in his first 15 starts, with opponents batting just .201 against him. Since then, he has made 14 starts and has a 5.92 ERA and 5.17 FIP in 65.1 innings pitched. Walks have been one of Newcomb’s biggest downfalls, as he ranks third in the National League with 76 base on balls issued on the season. He’s faced the Mets twice this year and has allowed three runs (two earned) with 13 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched.
deGrom (2018): 209.0 IP, 259 K, 46 BB, 10 HR, 1.77 ERA, 2.03 FIP, 0.94 WHIP
The Mets finally gave deGrom some run support and helped him earn his ninth victory of the season. He pitched seven stellar innings against the Nationals and allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out eight. In the process, he broke the major league record by registering his 23rd consecutive quality start in a season. If can avoid an uncharacteristic meltdown against the Braves, he will finish with an ERA under two and will become the only the third pitcher since 1908 to finish with a sub-2.00 ERA, register 250-plus strikeouts, and walk less than 50 batters. The other two: Christy Mathewson in 1908 and Pedro Martinez in 2000. With Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola faltering slightly in recent outings, deGrom should have the Cy Young Award all but locked up.
Thursday, September 27: Julio Teheran vs. Jason Vargas, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Teheran (2018): 169.2 IP, 157 K, 82 BB, 25 HR, 4.03 ERA, 4.83 FIP, 1.19 WHIP
In his last start, Teheran allowed four earned runs on five hits in 6.1 innings against the Phillies and did not factor in the decision. Teheran is far from the ace who made the All-Star team in 2014 and 2016, but he has had a bounce-back year after an abysmal 2017 and has been serviceable for the division-winning Braves. In nine starts since the beginning of August, he has a 3.13 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 54.2 innings pitched. He will close out his regular season against a Mets team that he has dominated throughout his career. In three starts against New York this year, he’s given up three earned runs in 19.2 innings pitched (1.37 ERA)
Vargas (2018): 85.0 IP, 78 K, 30 BB, 18 HR, 6.25 ERA, 5.31 FIP, 1.49 WHIP
Vargas will close out his season on a bit of a roll after a terrible start to his second tenure with the Mets. In his last seven starts, he has a 3.11 ERA and a 4.32 FIP in 37.2 innings, with opposing batters are hitting .213 against him. In that span, he has struck out 35 against just 10 walks. In his last start, Vargas was tasked with facing off against Scherzer in a pitching mismatch. Vargas held the Nationals off the board for the first five innings but surrendered a two-run home run to Anthony Rendon in the sixth before exiting one batter later.
Prediction: The Mets will drop two out of three to the Braves.
How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Braves?
This poll is closed
The Mets sweep the division champs!
Two out of three ain’t bad against the playoff-bound Braves.
The Braves continue their dominance of the Mets, but NY steals a game.
The Braves chop the Mets down in a three-game sweep.