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Simulating the Mets’ 2020 season: Mets return home to face Braves

Having taken three of four from the Brewers over the weekend, my Mets are back in Queens for a four-game series against the Braves.

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Having taken three of four games from the Brewers over the weekend, my version of the Mets have returned home to play a four-game series against the Braves. It’s the first time facing them this season. Also, two four-game series in a row, MLB? Really? There’s no off day on either end of this series, obviously, and the Brewers will be in town this upcoming weekend.

April 13: Mets vs. Braves

Having used Jacob deGrom in the Sunday afternoon series finale on regular rest, the biggest downside of this four-game set is that he won’t pitch in it. But Noah Syndergaard starts tonight opposite Mike Foltynewicz, a matchup fit for a baseball name spelling bee. Maybe Doug Mientkiewicz and Kirk Nieuwenhuis can host.

Syndergaard gives up three in the top of the first, unfortunately, but the Mets answer with three in the bottom of the second—two of which scored on a Syndergaard single. A sac fly off the bat of Dom Smith accounts for the third run of the inning. The Mets take the lead in the bottom of the third when Robinson Cano, who doubled earlier in the inning, comes in to score on a wild pitch.

Syndergaard goes six innings without giving up anything after those three runs in the first, and Foltynewicz lasts six, as well. I turn things over to Seth Lugo, who pitches a scoreless seventh but allows a game-tying run in the eighth on a Johan Camargo sac fly. With the Mets’ bats silent since the third inning, I then call in Edwin Diaz, who pitches an easy, scoreless ninth. I keep him in the game for the tenth, and a one-out single by Ozzie Albies and double by Freddie Freeman put him on the ropes. After we intentionally walk Ronald Acuna Jr. to load the bases, his first pitch to Camargo is a wild pitch that brings Albies home. There’s no further damage here, but that run decides the game.

Final: Braves 5, Mets 4 (10)


Box score

April 14: Mets vs. Braves

Having used them on different days the last time through the rotation, the plan tonight is to go with the piggyback of Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello in this one. The Braves are starting Sean Newcomb.

The Braves strike first with a solo home run from Johan Camargo and an RBI single from Newcomb in the top of the second. Newcomb doesn’t allow anything until Pete Alonso gets him for a solo home run in the sixth, but it’s the only run he gives up in his six innings of work.

And over on my side, I pinch hit for Wacha in the bottom of the third, as he’s thrown sixty pitches and it’s feeling like every run will be a big one in this game. Pinch hitter Jake Marisnick singles to lead off the inning, but he’s retired almost immediately when Jeff McNeil grounds into a double play. The kicker here is that Porcello comes into the game and throws three pitches before he’s forced to leave with an injury.

Matt Harvey takes over and has a great outing: 3.2 innings, no runs, one hit, four strikeouts, and one walk. He throws 50 pitches in the process and keeps this thing a close game. Robert Gsellman pitches a scoreless eighth, but Dellin Betances gives up a solo home run to Marcell Ozuna in the ninth. It doesn’t really matter, though, since the Mets fail to score again in the game.

Final: Braves 3, Mets 1


Box score

April 15: Mets vs. Braves

Dropping the first two games of this series, which puts the Braves at 13-6 and the Mets at 9-8, hasn’t exactly been inspiring. With the Braves starting right-handed pitcher Bryse Wilson, I’m setting a lineup that’s heavy on lefties at the top of the order for this one, with Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and Dom Smith in the top three slots, followed by Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano.

Marcus Stroman is making his third start of the season, and he goes six solid innings, giving up two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and three walks before I pinch hit for him with Matt Adams in the bottom of the sixth. Adams has been one of my go-to guys for pinch hitting situations, but he’s been brutal thus far, reaching base just one in 12 plate appearances—and that one time was a walk.

But a four-run bottom of the third put the Mets ahead, thanks in part to some serious Barves plays. Wilson Ramos scores thanks to an error and a passed ball before Dom Smith drives in two runs with a single and Pete Alonso drives him in with an absolutely smoked double. Smith tacks on a run in the sixth, too, scoring Stroman, who singled to lead off that inning. And Alonso brings in another run with a sac fly in in the sixth.

Robert Gsellman goes two innings, albeit on 44 pitches, and gives up a run on three hits before Dellin Betances puts up a scoreless, efficient ninth inning to earn his second save of the season. Put it in the books.

Final: Mets 6, Braves 3


Box score

April 16: Mets vs. Braves

There’s a chance for us to split this four-game series after it got off to a rough start, and Steven Matz steps up. With Robinson Cano opening the scoring with a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the first, Matz goes eight innings, gives up just two runs over eight innings of work, one each in the fourth and fifth innings.

Pete Alonso brings in a run with a single in the fifth, and the Mets get one more when Matz comes home on a fielder’s choice. Things remain clean when Jeurys Familia notches a pair of strikeouts in a scoreless ninth inning to earn his third save of the year. If only all the games were this easy.

Final: Mets 5, Braves 2


Box score

Rich Resch’s take: This has been a roller coaster of a season thus far, and this four-game series was no exception. After an impressive series that saw them take three of four on the road against a quality opponent, McShane’s Mets returned home with a pep in their step. Enter the division-leading Braves for what has to be considered the biggest series of the young season and the most difficult test for the new manager.

The first two games were a sobering reminder of just how good this Braves team can be—they are the two-time defending division champions, after all. I’m sure some virtual fans were calling up virtual WFAN complaining about McShane’s bullpen management after the game one loss, but I have no issue with keeping Lugo and Diaz out there for two innings apiece. Walking Acuña to get to Camargo was absolutely the right move, it just didn’t pay off. It happens.

It was obviously concerning to see Porcello leave game two after throwing only three pitches, but the silver lining was Matt Harvey’s performance. The former All-Star was able to turn back the clock for 3.2 brilliant innings, showing his doubters that there’s still something left in the tank. It’s a shame the anemic offense could only scratch across one run, wasting Harvey’s efforts. We’ll wait to see the extent of Porcello’s injury, but it’ll be interesting to see how McShane uses Harvey going forward.

It’s still way too early in the season for any games to be considered must-wins, but after dropping the first two in varying degrees of heartbreaking fashion, it was important for the team to take at least one of the next two. Stroman and Matz, who have each had strong (island) starts to their 2020 seasons, came up big again. The bats are going to have to wake up soon if this team is going to have any sustained success, and some key hits by Alonso and Cano may signal that the offense is beginning to come out of hibernation.

Though the Mets could and maybe should have taken three out of four and pulled into first place, a series split with the Braves is not a bad outcome, and the resiliency the team showed is encouraging. With deGrom on the bump for the next game, McShane must feel good about the team’s chances of stringing together three in a row.