The Mets (98-58) head to Atlanta to take on the Braves (97-59) in a three-game set. That’s the short, boring story. The longer, more thrilling story is that this series will essentially decide the National League East division and, along with it, a first-round bye in the postseason. Either the Braves will win their fifth straight division title, or the Mets will be crowned champions of the National League Eastern division for the first time since 2015. The Mets have won nine out of the sixteen games the teams have played this year, which looms large as the two sides square off for one final round (in the regular season).
As predicted right here on Amazin’ Avenue dot com, the Mets and Marlins split their two-game set. The Mets dropped their first game, as Carlos Carrasco crumbled and the offense didn’t do much of anything against Pablo López and the Marlins’ bullpen. Miami put up two runs in the first and two more in the third, but the Mets roared back thanks to a three-run home run from Pete Alonso. That was essentially the extent of the team’s offense and save for Ricahard Bleier balking in a run in the seventh—he balked three times in one plate appearance, the first time that has happened in major league history—the Mets’ bats were quiet. Miami tacked on a couple of runs, which helped secure their victory.
The Mets fought back from another 4-0 deficit on Wednesday to win 5-4. This was basically the Eduardo Escobar game, as he took matters into his own hands once his team fell behind. He hit a two-run home run to help his team cut the lead in half, then knocked in two with a single in the bottom of the eighth to tie things up, and finally walked it off with a single in the tenth. Not only did it help the Mets win, but it produced another iconic Gary Cohen moment in a career full of them.
It really cannot be overstated how huge Escobar has been this month. In 25 September games, he has slashed .330/.379/.638 with eight home runs, 24 runs batted in, and 16 runs scored. His 1.017 OPS, 183 wRC+, and 1.4 fWAR lead the club this month, while his eight homers and 24 runs batted in trail only Alonso. It really has been the month of Escobar.
An added bit of intrigue heading into this series: The Mets are calling up MLB’s top prospect, catcher Francisco Álvarez, for these games. The news started to trickle in on Thursday night, and it is long overdue, especially now with the Triple-A season over. Between Binghamton and Syracuse this year, Álvarez hit .260/.374/.511 with 27 home runs in 411 at-bats across 112 games. He struggled at the start of his Triple-A tenure, but he turned it on after his return from his recent injury, with a 1.079 OPS in the final month of the season.
The Braves won their first two games pretty handily against the Nationals, as everybody expected, but a funny thing happened in their third and final game against Washington: they lost. In fact, they never led in the contest. They were trailing 2-1 from the third until the eighth, when they tied up the game. They failed to capitalize on the extra runner in the tenth, and CJ Abrams played the hero role in the bottom half of the frame to send Nats (and Mets) fans home happy.
So here is where things stand: The Mets hold a one game lead in the NL East, with a magic number of six and six games remaining. Because of the lockout and the compressed nature of the schedule, there will be no play-in game should the two teams end up tied. As a result, the team that wins the regular season series gets the tie-breaker. Remember when I said that the Mets won nine of sixteen against the Braves? Well, that means that one win in this series gives New York a decided advantage.
Essentially, an Atlanta sweep is the only catastrophic scenario, as it would swing the tiebreaker in Atlanta’s favor and put the Mets down two games with three to play. Essentially, they would need to win all three and hope the Braves lose all three. If the Mets sweep, they will be celebrating a division title on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN (yuck). The most likely scenario is one of the two teams taking two of three. If the Mets take two of three, they return to Citi Field up two games but just needing one win to close out the NL East. Even if they lose two out of three, they return home with a magic number of three, meaning if they win their three games, the division is theirs. All things considered, the Mets are in the driver’s seat heading to Atlanta, but they need to take care of business and win (at least) one game (preferably two or, of course, three).
Friday, September 30: Jacob deGrom vs. Max Fried, 7:20 p.m. on SNY
deGrom (2022): 58.1 IP, 91 K 8 BB, 6 HR, 2.93 ERA, 1.74 FIP, 0.74 WHIP, 1.4 bWAR
Let’s just tell it like it is: deGrom was bad in his last start. Not only was he bad, he was as bad as he’s been since May 2019. He put up a stinker like you so rarely see from the ace and, in doing so, reminded us that he is, in fact, human. He gave up five earned runs on six hits in just four innings, walking four batters after walking just four in his previous nine starts. And yet, he’s still the best pitcher in baseball. It happens. Buck Showalter, recognizing an opportunity to set the tone in this series, moved deGrom up (still on one extra day’s rest thanks to the excessive amount of off days) so he could kick the series off. Let’s hope he got the bad vibes out of his system.
Fried (2022): 180.1 IP, 167 K, 32 BB, 12 HR, 2.50 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, 5.9 bWAR
Fried is putting the finishing touches on his finest (full) major league season to date. The left-hander will make his 30th start on Friday, which represents just the second time in his young career that he’s made 30 starts. In his last start against the Phillies, he was saddled with a hard-luck loss after allowing one earned run on five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts over five innings. Prior to that, he went six innings (also against Philadelphia) and allowed two earned runs on four hits, though he settled for a no-decision there. He has faced the Mets four times this year, allowing 10 runs (eight earned) over 24.0 innings.
Saturday, October 1: Max Scherzer vs. Kyle Wright, 7:20 p.m. on FOX
Scherzer (2022): 139.2 IP, 169 K 24 BB, 11 HR, 2.13 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 0.88 WHIP, 5.4 bWAR
Scherzer was once again spectacular in his last outing, even if he wasn’t perfect. He went six innings for the second straight start coming off the IL and allowed one earned run on four hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts. He earned his 11th win of the season, and 201st of his incredible career. He has been scintillating in two of his three starts against Atlanta. Back in July, he allowed one earned run on three hits with nine strikeouts over seven innings at Truist Park, in just his second start off the IL. Then on August 6, he tossed seven shutout innings, scattering four hits while striking out 11. He was a bit more human against them on August 17, as he allowed four earned runs on three hits over 6 1⁄3 innings, though he still picked up the win.
Wright (2022): 175.1 IP, 171 K, 52 BB, 19 HR, 3.18 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 3.7 bWAR
Like Fried, Wright is set to make his 30th start of the season, representing the first time in his career he has reached that milestone. Unlike Fried, he has won 20 games. In fact, he’s the only pitcher in the league with 20 wins under their belt this season. He did this in his last outing, when he allowed two earned runs on two hits, with two walks and six strikeouts over 5 1⁄3 innings. The Braves have won each of the last eight starts the right-hander has made, with Wright picking up the victory in seven of those starts. The last team to hand him a loss, you ask? The Mets, who tagged him for six earned runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts over six innings at Citi Field back on August 4.
Sunday, October 2: Chris Bassitt vs. Charlie Morton, 7:08 p.m. on ESPN
Bassitt (2022): 179.0 IP, 165 K 46 BB, 18 HR, 3.27 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 3.5 bWAR
Bassitt was terrific in his last outing against the Athletics. Returning to the place he called for home the past seven season, Bassitt turned in one of his best performances of the year, hurling eight innings of two-run ball. He only struck out two, but he walked one and allowed six hits over his eight frames. He only needed 91 pitches to reach the inning. The Mets have done well in Bassitt’s recent starts, winning 10 of his last 11 outings. He will be pitching on eight day’s rest, so it will be interesting to see if that has any effect on him going into this start.
Morton (2022): 167.2 IP, 200 K, 62 BB, 26 HR, 4.29 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 1.8 bWAR
Morton is closing out another solid major league season, and one in which he struck out 200 batters for the fourth time in the last five years. He is coming off a bad start in which he was knocked around by the Phillies to the tune of six earned runs on six hits over 4 2⁄3 innings. He was much better in his previous start against Washignton, as he allowed just one earned run on three hits over 5 1⁄3 in that one. He was dominant in his last start against the Mets at Truist Park, shutting New York out over 6 2⁄3 innings while striking out a season-high 12. His two previous starts against the Mets weren’t as good, as he allowed five earned runs on six hits over five innings on July 13, and five runs (four earned) on seven hits over 5 2⁄3 back on May 3. He was handed the loss in both of those outings.
Prediction: The Mets drop two out of three but control their destiny heading back to Citi Field to face the Nationals.
How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Marlins?
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The Mets sweep the Braves and clinch the NL East on Sunday night!
The Mets take two of three to return to Citi Field with a magic number of 1.
The Mets drop two of three but still control their own destiny as they head home.
The Mets are swept, which all but squashes their hope of a division title.