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Sinking Mets return home to celebrate 1969 World Champions and face first-place Braves

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Perhaps the presence of the 1969 team can provide some sort of magic as the Mets desperately try to save their season.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The New York Mets (37-45) limp home from a treacherous 11-game road trip to begin their final home stretch before the All Star break with three against the first-place Atlanta Braves (48-34). The Mets managed just three wins over their last 11 games, and will now be tasked with facing two of baseball’s best over the next five games. This is the first time the Mets will host the Braves at Citi Field in 2019 after New York split a pair in April and lost two out of three in June at SunTrust Park.

The Mets went full-blown radioactive Mets this week in a series of truly bizarre happening. After manager Mickey Callaway and pitcher Jason Vargas verbally accosted Newsday’s Tim Healey following Sunday’s loss in Chicago, the team traveled to Philadelphia and held a media session prior to the start of that series to address the matter and, presumably, apologize publicly for the spat. Instead, Callaway doubled down in a head-scratching presser that saw him name-drop Billy Martin while stopping short of actually saying “I’m sorry”. Vargas, meanwhile, spoke for a whole 20 seconds without showing any measurable attrition. After receiving some “feedback”, Callaway called reporters back and finally offered apologies, though the sincerity of his act was questionable at best given his earlier actions.

With the distraction of the day’s events casting a dark, inescapable shadow over them, the Mets took the field on Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies and jumped to a much-needed first inning lead. Unfortunately, Steven Matz’s troubles at Citizens Bank Park persisted as he was roughed up and allowed seven runs before all was said and done. Jeff McNeil’s streak of consecutive multi-hit games came to an end, although the club benefited from homers by Todd Frazier, Wilson Ramos, Michael Conforto, and Dominic Smith. Despite picking up 15 hits and scoring seven runs, Mets’ pitchers surrendered 13 runs and 19 hits to help the Phillies end their seven-game losing streak.

Tuesday was equally nightmarish, as the Mets bullpen suffered another disheartening meltdown which resulted in a 7-5 loss. New York once again jumped ahead early and got a decent start from spot starter Walker Lockett. He was lifted in the sixth with runners on second and third but his team ahead by three, and Wilmer Font dashed any dreams of a win with a sixth inning implosion. By the time Font was removed with two outs in the inning, the Mets were down by two, both benches had been warned after Font hit Scott Kingery, and Phillies’ manager Gabe Kapler had been ejected after a red-faced rant to Joe West about the warnings. All in all, it was another bad night at the office for Callaway’s crew.

Things only got worse on Wednesday, as the team blew their third lead in as many days as they absorbed their fourth consecutive defeat. Following his verbal threats and subsequent “punishment”, Vargas took the mound and managed to tie a career-high with ten strikeouts over 6.1 innings. Like Lockett, he left with a three-run advantage before Seth Lugo collapsed in the seventh inning. Lugo allowed Vargas’s inherited runner to cross the plate before Jean Segura tied the game with a two-out, two-run single. Like the previous two nights, the offense essentially shut it down for the evening after the bullpen’s implosion, and the Phillies walked it off in the tenth thanks to a hit from former Met Jay Bruce.

Thursday’s matinee finale was a roller coaster of emotion that eventually ended up another catastrophic loss that may have been the finally dagger in the Mets’ already unrealistic playoff hopes. Aaron Nola gave up just one hit—a single by Zack Wheeler—over seven innings as he stymied the Mets’ offense all afternoon. Wheeler was equally good and gave up just one hit over six, but the one hit was a towering Bryce Harper home run on a fastball right down the middle. The run held up until the ninth, when Philadelphia turned to closer Hector Neris for a third straight game, and it did not go as well as the previous two nights. After picking up just one hit over the first eight, the team strung together four consecutive base knocks in the ninth, including a go-ahead, two-run homer off the bat of Frazier. Amed Rosario drove in an insurance run on an ground ball out to first. With the Mets looking to win their first game of 2019 when trailing after eight, Edwin Diaz entered and fell apart on the mound. The closer served up a game-tying two-run home run to Mets killer Maikel Franco—who else?—before giving up a game-winning three-run home run to Segura for Philadelphia’s second straight walk-off win and the Mets’ fifth straight loss.

With the defeat, the Mets dropped to eleven games out of first in the National League East and six-and-a-half games back for the Wild Card. This is normally the part of the preview where I would highlight recent performances worth noting, such as McNeil coming in second in the National League in batting average (.351) or Smith hitting three home runs in the team’s four-game series. However, that hardly seems appropriate at this point in time. Even highlighting how bad the bullpen was over the past week seems unnecessarily redundant. We’ve all been on social media and seen those numbers pointed out multiple times. Right now, it seems as if there’s no actual light at the end of the tunnel, except for an incoming train coming to run the team over.

That train would be the first-place Braves, who have opened up a four-and-a-half game lead in the division despite losing yesterday’s afternoon series finale with the Chicago Cubs, which resulted in a series split between the two squads. Prior to that, the Braves took two of three against the Washington Nationals on the road. Atlanta enters this series with the second-best record in the National League behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Freddie Freeman had a particularly good week since the Mets last saw them at SunTrust Park eight days ago. In six games, Freeman slashed .292/.346/.458 with a team-best 109 wRC+. Ronald Acuna Jr. led the way with two home runs during the week while hitting .208/.321/.458 with six runs scored and a 102 wRC+. After a scorching-hot start to his career, Austin Riley cooled off and hit his first real rough patch as a major leaguer. In six games, he posted a .143/.182/.333 slash line with one home runs and a 26 wRC+. Dansby Swanson, meanwhile, also had a rough week, finishing with a .192/.250/.462 slash line with two home runs and a 78 wRC+.

Friday, June 28: Mike Soroka vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Soroka (2019): 78.1 IP, 63 K, 19 BB, 3 HR, 2.07 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 0.97 WHIP

Braves’ rookie hurler Soroka will make his scheduled start on Friday after getting hit by a 93 mph fastball to the forearm in his last start on Sunday. As a result, he was forced to exit after just two inning, where he surrendered one hit and struck out one batter before suffering the right forearm contusion. After a truly stellar first two months of his career in which he allowed ten earned runs over his first ten starts, he had allowed in eight earned runs over his two previous starts on June 12 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and June 17 against the Mets. He will garner some Rookie of the Year consideration if he can maintain his impressive numbers throughout the year. To date, he owns the second-best ERA in the National League.

deGrom (2019): 97.0 IP, 121 K, 20 BB, 12 HR, 3.25 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 1.09 WHIP

At this point, it’s fair to wonder if the Mets enjoy being cruel to their ace and if they truly like him at all. If it’s not the offense failing to score runs for their ace, it’s their bullpen surrendering the lead late in games to deprive him of the victory. Once again, deGrom was solid over six innings against the Cubs, as he held his opponent to two earned runs on eight hits with nine strikeouts. He didn’t walk a batter for the third consecutive outing and didn’t allow a home run against Chicago, and exited with a fairly good shot at earning his fifth win of 2019. Instead, Lugo served up a three-run home run in the eighth, and deGrom had to settle for another no-decision. After enduring his worst start of the year in Miami on May 17, deGrom has pitched to a 2.40 ERA and 2.70 FIP in 45 innings across his next seven starts, with a 30.7% strikeout rate and a 3.4% walk rate.

Saturday, June 29: Julio Teheran vs. Steven Matz, 4:10 p.m. on SNY

Teheran (2019): 91.1 IP, 81 K, 46 BB, 10 HR, 3.94 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 1.34 WHIP

After Teheran allowed four earned runs in eight starts in a stretch running from May 5 through June 13, the Braves’ right-hander was rocked in back-to-back outings. Teheran yielded six earned runs on eight hits over three innings against the Mets on June 18 before giving up a season-high seven earned runs on a season-high nine hits over four innings on June 24 against the Cubs. As a result, his earned run averaged jumped a full run from 2.92 to 3.94. Despite getting knocked around by New York earlier this month, he still owns a sterling 2.62 ERA in 26 career starts against the Mets.

Matz (2019): 78.0 IP, 75 K, 29 BB, 18 HR, 4.85 ERA, 5.49 FIP, 1.46 WHIP

It may be time to unironically wonder whether the Mets should use an opener for Matz, who has been absolutely dreadful in the first inning in games this season. Staked to a two-run lead, Matz gave up three in the first to put his team back in a hole. He now owns a 10.93 ERA in the first inning this year. After allowing two solo home runs in the first on Monday, he became only the second pitcher in history to allow ten home runs in the first inning before July 1. He has now given up a league-leading 18 long balls and owns the worst HR/9 (2.08) among all National League starters who’ve tossed at least 75 innings. In two starts at Citizens Bank Park in 2019, Matz has been battered to the tune of 15 runs (13 earned) in 4.1 innings. In five June starts, Matz owns a putrid 7.24 ERA and 6.88 FIP.

Sunday, June 30: Max Fried vs. Noah Syndergaard, 7:05 p.m. on ESPN

Fried (2019): 88.2 IP, 84 K, 27 BB, 11 HR, 3.96 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 1.33 WHIP

After an uneven stretch to start the month of June, Fried has turned in back-to-back solid starts for the Braves as he’s picked up wins eight and nine on the year. Fried held the Mets to two earned runs on eight hits with six strikeouts over six innings in a win and followed that up with six innings against the Cubs where he allowed two earned runs on two hits and a season-high eight strikeouts.

Syndergaard (2019): 95.0 IP, 93 K, 24 BB, 11 HR, 4.55 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 1.21 WHIP

Syndergaard is expected to make his first appearance in 15 days after landing on the Injured List with a low-grade hamstring strain and missing two starts. He made one rehab appearance for the Brooklyn Cyclones on Tuesday and went five innings while giving up three earned runs on five hits with nine strikeouts. Before exiting his start against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 15, he had allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits with five strikeouts over six-plus innings. Prior to that, he had pitched seven one-hit innings in a start against the Colorado Rockies. Syndergaard’s ERA still sits at an unsavory 4.55 halfway through the season.

Prediction: The Mets continue to sink as they drop two of three to the Braves.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    The Mets chop down the Braves in a much-needed three-game sweep!
    (6 votes)
  • 7%
    The Mets rebound from a tough road trip by taking two out of three.
    (6 votes)
  • 27%
    The Mets drop another series but win a game this time.
    (22 votes)
  • 41%
    The Mets’ fall to the bottom continues after being swept by Atlanta.
    (33 votes)
  • 15%
    Pizza!
    (12 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now