The New York Mets (83-75) have three games left to play in 2019 before packing up and heading home. To close out the season, they will square off with the National League East winning Atlanta Braves (97-62), who are looking to win 100 games for the first time since 2003. New York has dropped 11 of 16 to Atlanta this year, including five of six at Citi Field. Their lone victory at home came on June 30, with Wilmer Font earning the win.
The Mets saw their slim playoff hopes dashed over the course of their series against the Miami Marlins. They dropped Monday night’s game thanks to another poor performance from Steven Matz paired with a lack of timely hitting. Jorge Alfaro took him deep in the second for a solo shot and then added a grand slam for good measure in the sixth as the roof caved in on the team. The Mets battled back with an Amed Rosario grand slam in the bottom half of the sixth, but they could muster no more runs in an 8-4 defeat.
They appeared headed towards an equally listless loss on Tuesday night and, with the Milwaukee Brewers winning their game, were staring down elimination. That’s when Michael Conforto stepped in and hit a pair of two-run home runs. He knocked his first out of the park off Sandy Alcantara in the seventh and added the game-tying blast off Jose Urena in the ninth. The Mets benefited from a strong performance from the bullpen after Noah Syndergaard was frustratingly ineffective through five, and they eventually won on a Brandon Nimmo bases-loaded walk in the eleventh inning to cap off a 5-4 victory.
The Mets sent Jacob deGrom out on Wednesday, and he was his usual masterful self through seven shutout shutout innings of two-hit ball. Pete Alonso inched closer to Aaron Judge’s single-season rookie mark for home runs after slugging his 51st in the second inning. New York jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked backed as they won 10-3. Unfortunately, the Brewers won again to officially eliminate them from contention.
Thursday was quite possibly Zack Wheeler’s final start of his Mets’ career. He was incredible through seven innings, facing two batters above the minimum while striking out ten. The Mets’ offense was equally futile against Miami, picking up just one hit through six. They finally broke through in the seventh, with Wheeler providing the go-ahead hit and Nimmo adding the second run on a sacrifice fly. However, Wheeler tired out in the eighth and surrendered back-to-back home runs to Tyler Heineman and Curtis Granderson. Edwin Diaz gave up a solo homer in the ninth as New York fell by a 4-2 score. Alonso enters the final weekend needing at least one home run to tie Judge and two to surpass his record.
The time for a proper eulogy for the 2019 Mets will likely be sometime in October when we can all take a step back and fully appreciate what the team was able to do this season, but it still helps to look back briefly and truly marvel at what the team was able to accomplish. They sat 11 games under .500 in July and appeared completely out of it. Following a disheartening series loss to the San Francisco Giants in mid-July, the Mets turned it on and won 16 of their next 18 to climb to within a half-game of a Wild Card spot. The last seven weeks of the season featured some high highs (sweeping the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks at home) and some low lows (getting swept by the Chicago Cubs, blowing a 10-4 lead to the Washington Nationals) but the Mets remained alive up until four games to go in the season as they prepare for a third place finish.
There is still some disappointment in a commendable finish, especially considering the Mets are likely to have the NL Cy Young Award winner (deGrom) and the NL Rookie of the Year and home run leader (Alonso) along with Jeff McNeil finishing in the top five in the batting title race. The club has a lot of questions to answer this offseason, including how to address their bullpen, how to keep their starting rotation as a strength, and what to do with Mickey Callaway as their manager.
The Braves come in to Citi Field after splitting a pair with the Kansas City Royals this week. They dropped the opener 9-6 before battering the Royals 10-2 on Wednesday. Prior to that, Atlanta had taken two of three from the San Francisco Giants. The Braves are set up to face the winner of the National League Central, which at this point can be either the Brewers or the St. Louis Cardinals.
Unsurprisingly, the Braves will end the year near the top in most National League categories. Heading into this series, they are second to the Los Angeles Dodgers in team wRC+ (103) and fWAR (26.7) and thord in team OPS (.791) and ISO (.200). They have also scored the second-most runs (847) in the league while hitting the fourth-most home runs (245). On the pitching side of things, their rotation boasts a team 4.16 ERA and 4.28 FIP while their pen owns a 4.24 ERA and 4.53 FIP on the season.
With a strong second half, Ronald Acuna Jr. has inserted himself into the National League MVP discussion with 41 home runs, 127 runs scored, 37 stolen bases, a .280/.365/.518 slash line, and a 132 wRC+ with a team-best 5.5 fWAR. Josh Donaldson, who signed a one-year pact with Atlanta in the offseason, has helped out his stock by hitting 37 home runs and slashing .258/..379/.523 with a 132 wRC+ and a 4.8 fWAR. With one more home run, Donaldson will have ten home runs against the Mets in 2019, representing a new single-season mark for an opponent. Freddie Freeman, who has often played the role of Mets’ tormentor, has had another big year with 38 home runs, 34 doubles, and 112 runs scored while hitting .296/.391/.555 with a team-best 140 wRC+ and a 4.1 fWAR.
Friday, September 27: Dallas Keuchel vs. Marcus Stroman, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Keuchel (2019): 107.2 IP, 87 K, 35 BB, 14 HR, 3.59 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 1.33 WHIP
Keuchel lines up to pitch Game 1 of the National League Division Series for the Braves after joining them mid-season. He has had a solid second half, highlighted by seven shutout innings against the Mets on August 25 and five consecutive victories from August 20 through September 11, but stumbled a bit two starts ago when he was roughed up for five earned runs on eight hits in five innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. He has been especially dominant against the Mets, tossing 13 shutout innings across two August starts. He will look to continue that trend as he faces them for his final tune up of the regular season.
Stroman (2019): 178.1 IP, 151 K, 57 BB, 18 HR, 3.23ERA, 3.80 FIP, 1.31 WHIP
At one point in his last start against the Cincinnati Reds, Stroman sat down 13 consecutive opposing batters. His final line of 4.2 innings and two earned runs on three hits doesn’t quite tell the full story, as Stroman felt “nauseous” during his performance according to Mickey Callaway and visible looked unwell. Despite that, he battled through before tiring out in the fifth. He served up a home run to Kyle Farmer with two outs and then walked three straight batters, including opposing pitcher Trevor Bauer, which forced his manager to remove him. Since struggling early in his Mets’ tenure, Stroman has recaptured a lot of what made him a reliable pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, and he figures to be a key contributor in the team’s 2020 rotation.
Saturday, September 28: Mike Foltynewicz vs. Steven Matz, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Foltynewicz (2019): 113.0 IP, 100 K, 36 BB, 21 HR, 4.46 ERA, 4.88 FIP, 1.26 WHIP
Foltynewicz will be the Braves’ Game 2 starter once the playoffs begin. The right-hander has caught fire at the right time, allowing just two earned runs over his last 26 innings while allowing 12 hits and striking out 21. His hot run began back on August 23, when he tossed seven innings of one-run ball at Citi Field in a game would go on to win in 14 innings. His recent streak has helped lower his ERA by one-and-a-half runs. This is the closest that Foltynewicz has been to his 2018 All Star self, and it’s coming at the best possible moment for the Braves.
Matz (2019): 154.1 IP, 146 K, 47 BB, 27 HR, 4.37 ERA, 4.63 FIP, 1.35 WHIP
In 2018, Matz put together a strong final six weeks and helped lower his ERA to under four while reaching 30 starts for the first time in his career. In 2019, he has completely unraveled down the stretch despite reaching the 30-start plateau for the second straight year. It’s been a maddening year for Matz, who has continued to show glimpses of what he can be but has not been able to put it together long enough to prove himself as an effective front-end starter. He’s struggled with first innings, struggled on the road, and struggled with home runs at various points of the season, so there are many things he will need to improve upon going into next year. In his last start, which was moved to Monday so he can pitch at home, he was tagged for six earned runs on nine hits in five-plus innings of work.
Sunday, September 29: Mike Soroka vs. Noah Syndergaard, 3:10 p.m. on SNY
Soroka (2019): 169.2 IP, 135 K, 39 BB, 13 HR, 2.60 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.09 WHIP
Alonso will likely run away with the NL Rookie of the Year Award, but Atlanta’s Soroka will garner serious consideration for what he did in his first full season. Heading into Sunday, he ranks first among all qualified starters with a 175 ERA+, a .765 winning percentage, and a 0.7 HR/9. He also comes in third behind Hyun-Jin Ryu and deGrom with his 2.60 ERA. In his last start, he earned his 13th victory of the year as he tossed five innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts against the Phillies. In his previous start against the Nationals, he tossed six one-hit innings for the victory. Two of his wins have come against the Mets, both happening in June starts. He will likely be limited in his pitchers for his final start of 2019 as the Braves look to save his bullets for the postseason, especially since he has never thrown this many innings before. Expect Soroka to throw no more than 75 pitches on Sunday as he prepares to pitch Game 3 of the NLDS.
Syndergaard (2019): 190.2 IP, 193 K, 48 BB, 23 HR, 4.30 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 1.24 WHIP
To say that Syndergaard has been a disappointment this season would be an oversimplification of what has become a long-running dilemma for the organization that will spill into the offseason. Against the Marlins, Syndergaard gave up ten hits for the second consecutive outing and was charged with four earned runs once again. Last September, he had a 1.73 ERA and a 3.28 FIP with 38 strikeouts in 41.2 innings while book-ending the month with complete game performances. This year, he’s finishing the year with a 5.20 ERA and a 3.80 FIP with 32 strikeouts over 27.2 innings. He’s given up four earned runs in each of his last four performances while failing to complete six innings in any of them after a steady run of going seven innings. Syndergaard will look to finish his year on a high note like he did last season. This could very well be his final start as a Met, as the team could again look to dangle him in trade discussions.
Prediction: The Mets will drop two of three against the Braves to close out 2019.
How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Braves?
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The Mets close out the year with a sweep!
The Mets win their final home series by taking two of three.
The Mets steal one from to prevent Atlanta from reaching 100 wins.
The Mets continue to falter against Atlanta as they’re swept to finish the year.
Pizza! One more slice for 2019!