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Mets embark on critical 11-game road trip, beginning with series against Braves

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The Mets will try to slow down Atlanta, who have taken over first place in the National League East.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets (34-37) begin a grueling 11-game road trip with three games at SunTrust Park against the first-place Atlanta Braves (42-30). It’s fair to say that the next eleven days will go a long way towards determining how the rest of the Mets’ 2019 season will play out. This will be the club’s second trip to Atlanta in 2019, after the two teams split four games in April.

The Mets dropped three out of four to the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field over the weekend while losing the first two games in excruciating fashion. On Thursday, New York carried a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning after Jacob deGrom gave them seven strong innings and Seth Lugo held down the fort in the eighth. The Mets found themselves three outs from a win when the heavy rain arrived and threw a wrench in the team’s plans. With the tarp already being rolled out, umpires decided to play through the downpours and Edwin Diaz ended up blowing the save in the ninth. The game was suspended and resumed the following evening, with Mickey Callaway electing to stay with his closer for the tenth. Things went about as well for Diaz as they went the night before, as he surrendered the game-winning run as the Mets fell 5-4.

The regularly-scheduled Friday night game was a back-and-forth affair, but the end result was the same. With the Mets ahead by a run, the Cardinals grabbed the lead off with a three-run fifth inning. The home team fought back with one run in the bottom on a Steven Matz solo home run of the frame to draw closer before rallying for three in the seventh off of Andrew Miller and John Gant. The lead was short-lived thanks to another Jeurys Familia eighth-inning implosion. Familia gave up a solo home run to Met-killer Paul DeJong before Dexter Fowler teed off with a three-run home run to put St. Louis ahead for good.

The bullpen nearly coughed up a third consecutive game, but the Mets barely escaped with an 8-7 victory on Saturday. Pete Alonso hit a majestic home run off the facing of the upper deck in left field as part of a five-run first, and J.D. Davis added a solo homer in the second as the Mets built a 6-1 lead after two innings and an 8-3 lead after six. The Mets gave up three runs in the seventh, and Lugo loaded the bases before striking out Matt Carpenter to maintain the two-run lead. In the ninth, Diaz again bent, but this time he didn’t break thanks to a heads-up play by Jeff McNeil. After Yadier Molina drove in the seventh run for St. Louis, Kolten Wong blooped a double that dropped in between McNeil and Michael Conforto. McNeil alertly recovered the ball and fired a perfect throw home in more than enough time to throw out pinch-runner Jack Flaherty, who was attempting to score from first. While the club won, they lost Noah Syndergaard to a hamstring injury, which could prove devastating in the long run.

The Mets reverted to their losing ways on Sunday despite picking up ten hits to St. Louis’ three. Jason Vargas allowed three runs (two earned) over four innings but was forced to exit after suffering a left calf cramp during his fourth inning at-bat. With the score tied at three, Wilmer Font—a candidate to replace Syndergaard during his IL stint—stepped in and was able to supply his club with three hitless innings to save the bullpen. However, it was once again DeJong who would help his club prevail with a titanic eighth inning home run, which resulted in a 4-3 final score.

Diaz’s recent struggles were front-and-center during the team’s series with the Cardinals. Since May 1, Diaz has pitched to a 5.29 ERA, a 3.76 FIP, and a 1.71 WHIP in 17 innings. While he’s still putting up an impressive 13.2 K/9, he also has a distressing 3.2 BB/9 and 1.6 HR/9. He also blown three saves during that stretch and has been far from the dominant reliever the Mets had hoped he’d be, with opponents hitting .329 against him with a .914 OPS.

Diaz is far from the only reliever struggling in the bullpen. Since returning from the IL on May 15, Familia has been a disaster and has all but lost his set-up role to the far more reliable Lugo. In 13 innings, Familia owns an abominable 7.62 ERA and a 5.78 FIP while posting a 9.0 K/9, a 4.2 BB/9, and a 2.1 HR/9. Robert Gsellman completes the triumvirate of disappointment, with a 5.85 ERA, a 3.47 FIP, a 1.45 WHIP, a 7.7 K/9, and a 1.9 BB/9 in 20 innings since the start of May. Lugo has been the lone exception in the Mets’ pen, as he’s pitched brilliantly to the tune of a 0.54 ERA, a 2.21 FIP, a 0.78 WHIP with an 11.9 K/9 in 16.2 innings since May 1.

The Braves have been the hottest team in the National League over the past two weeks and have leapfrogged the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East standings. The Braves won two out of three against the aforementioned Phillies over the weekend and, despite seeing their eight-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday, they still have a lot to smile about after bludgeoning Philadelphia 15-1 in the series finale on Sunday.

The Mets will get their first look at left fielder/third baseman Austin Riley, who was drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft and entered the year as Atlanta’s fourth-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. With Josh Donaldson at third base, Riley has primarily played in left field since joining the major league club. In his debut on May 15, the 22-year-old hit a home run in his second career at-bat and has taken off from there. In 29 games, Riley is slashing .293/.333/.629 with 11 home runs, a 142 wRC+, and a 0.8 fWAR.

Along with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, Riley gives the Braves one of the most formidable young cores in all of baseball. Acuna Jr. has avoided any sort of sophomore slump by hitting .287/.366/.491 with a 123 wRC+ in 70 games. The 21-year-old outfielder and 2018 NL Rookie of the Year is currently second on the club with 15 home runs and with a 2.4 fWAR. The 22-year-old Albies, meanwhile, has a respectable .275/.341/.450 slash line with 10 home runs, a 104 wRC+, and a 1.4 fWAR. Of course, it’s impossible to mention Atlanta’s offense without bringing up Met tormentor Freddie Freeman. The veteran first baseman is having another All Star-caliber season with a .308/.397/.591 slash line, 19 home runs, a 153 wRC+, and a 2.5 fWAR.

The Mets will not see Dallas Keuchel during this visit to Atlanta, although they will likely face him at some point in 2019. The Braves saw an opportunity to improve on a weakness and make a move in a wide-open division by signing Keuchel to a one-year deal, and they took it. Keuchel made his second rehab start over the weekend and allowed three earned runs in seven innings after cruising in his first rehab game. When Keuchel is ready, he will join a rotation that already sports a resurgent Julio Teheran as well as rookie Mike Soroka, who currently resides near the top of the National League ERA leaderboard.

Monday, June 17: Zack Wheeler vs. Mike Soroka, 7:20 p.m. on SNY

Wheeler (2019): 88.2 IP, 99 K, 26 BB, 13 HR, 4.87 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 1.29 WHIP

Wheeler was shellacked at Yankee Stadium in the first game of the day-night doubleheader on Tuesday, allowing a season-high nine runs—although only five were earned. He was victimized by some terrible defense and inexcusable mental mistakes by the team behind him, but he was unable to pick his teammates up when he needed to. He allowed two more home runs—upping his 2019 total to 13 long balls allowed—and gave up ten hits for the second time this season. After going at least six innings in each of his last 11 starts, he made it through just 4.2 innings in the loss. In 11 career starts against the Braves, Wheeler has pitched to a 3.19 ERA.

Soroka (2019): 70.1 IP, 60 K, 18 BB, 2 HR, 1.92 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 0.97 WHIP

Soroka could be Alonso’s stiffest competition for the National League Rookie of the Year Award this season. Entering his Monday start, the 21-year-old ranks first in HR/9 (0.26), second in ERA (1.92), fourth in FIP (2.88), and 11th in fWAR (2.0) among qualified National League starting pitchers. He has yielded one earned run or less in nine out of his 11 starts this season and has only given up two home runs in 70.1 innings. He is coming off his worst start of 2019, when he allowed a season-high five earned runs and 10 hits in five innings to the Pittsburgh Pirates last Wednesday. The right-hander made his major league debut last May against the Mets and earned his first career victory while holding New York to one earned run on six hits while striking out five in six innings.

Tuesday, June 18: Jacob deGrom vs. Julio Teheran, 7:20 p.m. on SNY

deGrom (2019): 82.2 IP, 102 K, 20 BB, 10 HR, 3.38 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 1.13 WHIP

Poor deGrom. He was once again robbed of a win that he deserved after he pitched another stellar game against the Cardinals. In his outing, he allowed two earned runs on six hits with zero walks and eight strikeouts in seven innings in the no-decision. Since his disastrous starts in Miami on May 17, he owns a 2.35 ERA and a 2.73 FIP in his five starts with a 10.3 K/9 and a 1.8 BB/9. One negative for deGrom has been the home run in 2019, as he’s now given up as many home runs (10) as he did all of last season. deGrom has posted a 2.61 ERAin six starts at SunTrust Park in his career.

Teheran (2019): 83.1 IP, 76 K, 40 BB, 8 HR, 2.92 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 1.19 WHIP

Through his first seven starts of the season, Teheran owned a 5.35 ERA (23 earned runs in 38.2 innings) and a 5.04 FIP after absorbing his fourth loss of 2019. Entering May, he owned the sixth-worst HR/9 (1.86) and eighth-worst BB/9 (4.19) among National League starters. Since then, he has done a complete 180 and has more closely resembled the pitcher who made the 2014 and 2016 National League All Star teams. Since May 1, he’s posted a minuscule 0.81 ERA (4 earned runs in 44.2 innings) with a 3.47 FIP in 44.2 innings. He hasn’t gone more than six innings in any of his last eight starts, but he has also not allowed more than one earned run and has held his opponent scoreless in four of those outings. In his last appearance, he earned his fifth win while holding the Pirates to two runs (one earned) on three hits with three walks and two strikeouts in six innings. He has continued to struggle with walks even during his resurgence, as he’s posted a 4.4 BB/9 since May 1. He has dominated the Mets in his career to the tune of a 2.35 ERA in 160.2 innings.

Wednesday, June 19: Steven Matz vs. Max Fried, 7:20 p.m. on SNY

Matz (2019): 68.2 IP, 72 K, 22 BB, 13 HR, 3.93 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.33 WHIP

Matz surrendered just three hits in his last start to the Cardinals but was burned by one pitch and some bad defense behind him. Frazier muffed what should have been an inning-ending double play, and Carlos Martinez made the Matz and the Mets pay with a three-run home run. Overall, it was a decent start, as Matz was charged with four runs (three earned) and struck out six and walked two. Matz earned his first victory of 2019 at SunTrust Park, as he defeated the Braves with six innings of two-run ball back on April 11.

Fried (2019): 76.2 IP, 70 K, 21 BB, 11 HR, 4.11 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 1.33 WHIP

For the second time in three June starts, Fried was tagged for five earned runs while lasting less than five innings. Against the Phillies, Fried pitched 4.2 innings and gave up seven hits while walking two and striking out four batters. He served up a season-high two home runs in his outing, including a no-doubter to Bryce Harper. After posting a 2.43 ERA and a 3.33 FIP in five April outings, he has since put up a 5.36 ERA and a 4.57 FIP in nine May/June starts, with opposing hitters .297 against him with an .827 OPS.

Prediction: The struggles in Atlanta continue as the Mets drop two out of three.

Poll

How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Braves?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    The Mets manhandle the first-place Braves in a three-game sweep!
    (25 votes)
  • 15%
    The Mets bounce back to take two of three in Atlanta.
    (38 votes)
  • 36%
    The Mets steal a game, but continue to slide.
    (90 votes)
  • 29%
    The Atlanta troubles continue as the Mets are swept by the Braves.
    (72 votes)
  • 9%
    Pizza!
    (23 votes)
248 votes total Vote Now