Weather permitting, the New York Mets (24-20) will welcome the second place Atlanta Braves (24-25) to Citi Field as they try to build upon their lead in the National League East. Following Friday night’s postponement, which will likely be made up during the July series between these teams, the Mets will hope the weather holds up the rest of the weekend as they prepare for two games. Tonight is looking like the better bet, with tomorrow’s forecast appearing worse by the minute. These clubs met during New York’s 10-game road trip earlier this month, with the Mets winning the series.
The injury-ravaged Mets returned home to take on the Colorado Rockies and took three out of four to grow their lead in the division. Things got off to a rocky start on Monday, as the Mets dropped the opener 3-2. David Peterson allowed two solo homers in the second, and another run in the fourth, which was more than the replaceMETS could make up for. Home runs from First Baseman James McCann in the seventh and Brandon Drury in the ninth helped the club climb closer, but that was all they could manage against Austin Gomber, who pitched into the ninth.
Tuesday marked Jacob deGrom’s return, and he was stellar over five innings of one-run ball, though the club chose to be cautious with their ace and pulled him after just 63 pitches. The game remained tied at one into the sixth, when Tomás Nido launched a two-run home that barely cleared the wall—in fact, it was originally ruled in play, but umpires reconsidered after convening—to give the Mets the lead. A combination of Miguel Castro, Trevor May, and Edwin Díaz tossed four scoreless frames to close out the 3-1 win.
Wednesday’s game was rained out, which led to a single-admission doubleheader on Thursday, one which the Mets would go on to sweep. In the first game, Marcus Stroman held the Rockies to three hits over six shutout frames. The Mets got one run, courtesy of a José Peraza third inning homer off, which was all the run support Stroman would need. Diaz pitched a scoreless seventh to finish off the 1-0 victory. In the second game, the Mets started Joey Lucchesi, who allowed one run over 3.2 innings. The Mets scored first, and the two teams traded runs in the fourth. The Mets drew two bases loaded walks in the sixth to grow their lead, which gave them some breathing room as they went on to win 4-2.
Over the course of their last series, the team elaborated on the extent of the injuries on some of their players, though some are still shrouded in mystery. Zack Scott revealed that the team will likely be without both Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto until at least late June, while a return date for Brandon Nimmo remains up in the air as he looks to shake the discomfort in his finger. J.D. Davis’ rehab stint was halted as he returned to New York for more testing, but it looks like Luis Guillorme might be ready to start his soon. Luckily, Pete Alonso is eligible to return on Saturday, and it looks like he should be ready not too long after that.
On the pitching front, while Seth Lugo should be returning when eligible, Carlos Carrasco won’t be back until at least late June/early July, while Noah Syndergaard suffered a setback and has been shut down from throwing for six weeks following elbow inflammation. With all these injuries, and the long recoveries facing some key players on the club, it seems this particular group will need to hold down the fort for at least the next month, if not longer.
For now, it’s been encouraging to see how the team’s core of replacements have performed in the face of adversity. Nido has particularly been a key contributor for the club, as he is hitting .310/.356/.571 with three homers, 9 runs batted in, a 159 wRC+, and a team-best 0.7 fWAR in 14 May games. Peraza, who drove in three of the team’s five runs on Thursday, is slashing .224/.283/.388 with two homers, 9 runs batted in, a 91 wRC+, and a 0.1 fWAR in 20 games this month. Jonathan Villar continues to impress, making some sparkling plays in the field while leading the Mets with four homers in May to go along with a .232/.337/.390 slash line, a 106 wRC+, and a 0.4 fWAR in 24 games in May. On the downside, Cameron Maybin has been abysmal since his acquisition. The veteran outfielder has failed to record a hit in 26 at-bats, but with the lack of available bodies on the 40-man roster, he will stick around for a little while longer.
Since the Mets last saw the Braves, they took three of four against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park before splitting a pair with the Boston Red Sox. In the Pittsburgh series, Atlanta exploded for 37 runs, which included them dropping 20 on the lowly Pirates last Friday. The Braves, like the Mets, have gotten some unfortunate injury news lately, as they recently found out they would be without slugging outfielder Marcell Ozuna for at least six weeks.
As the Mets saw last week when they visited Atlanta, Austin Riley has been on an offensive tear this month. Riley leads the club with seven homers, a 182 wRC+, and a 1.1 fWAR while slashing .325/.406/.651 in 23 games. Dansby Swanson has also had a solid month, hitting .291/.323/.581 with six home runs, a 136 wRC+, and a 0.8 fWAR in 23 games. Ronald Acuña Jr. is always a player to watch out for, even if he didn’t look quite right in the last series against the Mets following his ankle injury. The superstar is slashing .208/.308/.506 with seven homers, a 116 wRC+, and a 0.5 fWAR in 21 May games. Freddie Freeman, who always saves his best for the Mets, is hitting .247/.360/.459 with five home runs, a team-high 17 runs scored, a 118 wRC+, and a 0.3 fWAR in 22 games this month.
Saturday, May 29: Ian Anderson vs. Taijuan Walker, 7:15 p.m. on FOX
Anderson (2021): 51.0 IP, 53 K, 21 BB, 4 HR, 2.82 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 1.20 WHIP, 1.8 bWAR
Anderson has dispelled any notion of a sophomore slump, leading the pitching-starved Braves in several categories. The right-hander is first among Braves starters with a 2.82 ERA, a 3.32 FIP, and a 1.8 bWAR, while his 25.2% K% is third-best. The one concern is his walks, as his 10.0% BB% is the worst among Atlanta’s starters, and he has walked four batters in three of his starts this year. After a rough go-around against the Toronto Blue Jays to kick off May, he’s registered three straight quality starts. In his last outing, he tossed six shutout frames with six strikeouts against the Pirates to notch his fourth victory of the year.
Walker (2021): 44.0 IP, 41 K, 18 BB, 1 HR, 2.05 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 0.98 WHIP, 0.9 bWAR
Walker will return without needing to make a rehab start. He hasn’t taken the hill in 11 days, when he pitched at Truist Park and held the Braves to one hit over three scoreless frames before he was removed with left side tightness. Following the deGrom injury, the club chose to be overly cautious with their right-hander, and after a couple of bullpen sessions, they proclaimed him good to go. In four starts this month, Walker has been charged with six runs (five earned) on 13 hits, with 18 strikeouts in 23 innings. Walker will attempt to pick up where he left off prior to his injury, and his return should bring some stability to the team’s rotation, which has been running out multiple bullpen games per turn.
Sunday, May 30: Max Fried vs. Jacob deGrom OR David Peterson*, 7:08 p.m. on ESPN
Fried (2021): 35.0 IP, 34 K, 14 BB, 4 HR, 4.63 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 1.49 WHIP, 0.5 bWAR
Fried has put a disastrous April behind him, and will look to close off his terrific month on a high note. After two tough April starts and an IL stint, Fried has returned and has allowed exactly one earned run in each of his four starts during the month, which includes a hard-luck loss to the Mets on May 17. In 24.0 innings, he is pitching to a 1.50 ERA, a 3.13 FIP, and a 1.00 WHIP, with a 21.2% K% and a 9.8% BB%. In that span, opposing batters are putting up a .532 OPS against the right-handed hurler. He will look to continue his run of dominance against the Mets, which has seen him pitch to a 2.73 ERA over 56.0 innings spanning nine starts and five relief outings.
deGrom (2021): 45.0 IP, 74 K, 7 BB, 3 HR, 0.80 ERA, 1.18 FIP, 0.60 WHIP, 2.3 bWAR
deGrom assuaged any fears about his injury with his return to the mound on Friday. The best pitcher in baseball struck out nine Rockies over five innings while pumping triple-digit fastballs. He allowed one earned run on a Ryan McMahon homer but was otherwise efficient in allowing just three hits. He only needed 63 pitches to navigate his five innings, but his club opted to remove him instead of push him in his first start back. Among 55 NL starting starters with at least 40 innings pitched, he is first in ERA (0.80), WHIP (0.60), K% (46.5%), and bWAR (2.3) while ranking second only to Corbin Burnes in FIP (1.18). In his career, deGrom has dominated the Braves to the tune of a 1.94 ERA in 23 career starts (148.1 innings).
Peterson (2021): 44.0 IP, 49 K, 17 BB, 8 HR, 4.91 ERA, 4.64 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, -0.5 bWAR
Peterson gave the club about the type of start you would expect from a fifth starter, and remained as frustrating as ever. The good: He gave his team six innings, and allowed five hits. The bad: He walked three and gave up two homers. He now owns a 1.64 HR/9 on the season, which is the fourth-worst mark among qualified National League starters in 2021. Meanwhile, his 3.48 BB/9 is the seventh-worst among qualified pitchers in the NL. With the setbacks to Syndergaard and Carrasco, Peterson will keep his rotation spot for at least the next two months, and the club will hope he can give them more of the good than the bad.
*The Mets have not yet made an official call on who will pitch Sunday. The choices are sticking with deGrom on his regular turn, or going with Peterson, who was supposed to start Saturday. While keeping Jake on his turn seems like the likely play, the increasingly gloomy Sunday forecast could convince the team to send deGrom West instead of risk pitching their star on a wet and uncomfortable night.
Prediction: Following Friday’s rain out, the Mets split the weekend set with Atlanta.
How will the Mets fare in their rain-shortened two game series against the Braves?
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The Mets grow their NL East lead with a sweep!
New York and Atlanta split a pair.
The Mets’ NL East lead is chopped by two as they’re swept.
You think Mother Nature is letting both games happen? LOL