Assuming Mother Nature cooperates, the Mets (15-11) will play four games over the next four days against the division-leading Braves (17-9). The last time these two squared off, Atlanta effectively ended New York’s hopes of an NL East title with a decisive sweep at Truist Park. Overall, the Mets won nine and lost ten against the Braves in 2023, including taking six of nine at Citi Field.
The Mets are coming off a disheartening series loss to the lowly Nationals, although they were able to salvage the series finale to avoid a sweep. Following a 7-3 West Coast trip, the team appeared jet-lagged and lethargic in a 5-0 loss on Tuesday night. They had no answers for Josiah Gray, who dominated from the jump, striking out nine and scattering four hits over six shutout frames. José Butto did all he could in an emergency start, going 4 2⁄3 innings while allowing two runs, but it was not enough. He did walk six to only one strikeout, but with the way the offense was performing, it really didn’t matter what he did.
The offense fared marginally better on Wednesday—they pushed one whole run across—but they still fell 4-1 to MacKenzie Gore and the Nationals. The lone run came from a Starling Marte two-out, run-scoring hit in the third inning, after the club had Eduardo Escobar on third to lead off the frame. That only served to cut the lead in half—Washington had jumped ahead 2-0 in the second—and that was as close as New York would get. Kodai Senga allowed two runs over five innings, but his command remained a concern, as he issued four free passes during his outing.
The Mets won a wild, back-and-forth affair on Thursday night to avoid an embarrassing sweep. Brett Baty hit his first homer of the season, and at one point the Mets led 7-3. Buck Showalter made a baffling decision to leave Tommy Hunter in for a third inning in relief of a mostly-effective Joey Lucchesi, and Hunter promptly loaded the bases (partly due to a Lindor error) before Brooks Raley surrendered a Grand Slam to CJ Abrams in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the frame, Pete Alonso drove home the tying run with a double, and Jeff McNeil drove the go-ahead run in with a triple. David Robertson came in to close the door on Washington and secure the win. The Mets collected a season-high 16 hits in the victory, including three from Baty and two apiece from Brandon Nimmo, Lindor, Alonso, McNeil, and Daniel Vogelbach.
The Braves are coming off taking three of four against the Marlins. They earned a decisive 11-0 win in the opener, then picked up 7-4 and 6-4 victories, and were in a position to sweep Miami on Thursday before their bullpen imploded for five runs in the ninth for a 5-4 loss.
Atlanta is a well-rounded, well-oiled machine. They’re second in the NL in runs (134) and OPS (.784), and third in wRC+ (113). On the pitching front, their rotation is first in the NL in FIP (3.69) and second in ERA (3.13) and K/9 (9.13). Meanwhile, their bullpen is more middle-of-the-pack, with the seventh-best ERA in the NL (3.88).
The Braves are led by Ronald Acuña Jr., who is putting up MVP-caliber number with a .352/.443/.552 slash line, four homers, 22 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, a 170 wRC+, and a 1.8 fWAR in 26 games. He leads the club in batting average, OBP, runs scored, stolen bases, wRC+, and fWAR. Matt Olson, who terrorized the Mets last year, has gotten off to a great start in 2023, hitting .250/.370/.540 with seven home runs, 22 runs batted in, a 144 wRC+. and a 1.0 fWAR in 26 games. It’s not just the old faces contributing, however. Sean Murphy, whom the team acquired to serve as their primary catcher over the winter, has ingratiated himself to his new teammates, posting a .263/.404/.592 slash line with six homers, a 167 wRC+, and a 1.3 fWAR in 22 games. He leads his new club with a .996 OPS.
Friday, April 28: Max Fried vs. David Peterson, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Fried (2023): 15.0 IP, 11 K 3 BB, 0 HR, 0.60 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 0.93 WHIP, 0.9 bWAR
Fried was a runner up for the NL Cy Young Award last year, and it looks like he’s coming to finish what he started in 2022. The left-hander has surrendered just one earned run—in his second inning of the year—and rides a 14-inning scoreless streak into Citi Field. His last time out, he held the Astros to three hits and three walks over 6 2⁄3 scoreless innings, though he settled for a hard-luck no decision. Last year against the Mets, Fried pitched to a 2.79 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP, with 25 strikeouts over 29 innings.
Peterson (2023): 25.2 IP, 30 K, 9 BB, 7 HR, 7.36 ERA, 5.60 FIP, 1.64 WHIP, -0.5 bWAR
Oh, David Peterson. What can possibly be said about this enigmatic left-hander? Not much that’s good, that’s for sure. The “We have Steven Matz at home” hurler has now allowed 13 earned runs on 14 hits over his last two starts. The good news, if there is any to be found, is that he’s only walked one while striking out 14 in his last 13 innings. The bad is, well, he’s surrendered five home runs in those two outings. With Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander returning soon (we hope), Peterson may soon find himself with a ticket to Syracuse, unless he does something to impress the big club. Against the Braves, that doesn’t seem very likely.
Saturday, April 29: Spencer Strider vs. Tylor Megill, 4:05 p.m. on FOX
Strider (2023): 30.0 IP, 49 K 11 BB, 1 HR, 1.80 ERA, 1.71 FIP, 0.83 WHIP, 1.3 bWAR
Strider is coming off a sensational start in which he struck out 13 and carried a no-hitter into the eighth. He finished with eight shutout innings while scattering two hits. It was his ninth consecutive start of at least nine strikeouts, which set a franchise mark for Atlanta. Strider leads the league in FIP (1.71), H/9 (4.2), and SO/9 (14.7) while being among the leaders in most other categories through his first five starts. If there’s one thing to make the Mets feel good, it’s that they scored six earned runs in 12 1⁄3 innings against Strider last season.
Megill (2023): 25.0 IP, 19 K, 12 BB, 5 HR, 3.96 ERA, 5.98 FIP, 1.48 WHIP, 0.3 bWAR
Megill endured his worst start of the year his last time out against the Giants. He only lasted four innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits with one walk and two strikeouts. He has now allowed seven earned runs on 13 hits over his last nine innings, with his club losing both of those games. Like Peterson, he is fighting for his job right now, with the aforementioned Scherzer and Verlander set to return soon. With Carlos Carrasco still on the shelf, there is room for two pitchers instead of just one, which may have bought the right-hander some time.
Sunday, April 30: Charlie Morton vs. José Butto, 1:40 p.m. on SNY
Morton (2023): 29.1 IP, 26 K 12 BB, 3 HR, 2.76 ERA, 4.33 FIP, 1.40 WHIP, 0.7 bWAR
Now in his 16th major league season, Morton continus to chug along and remains a really solid pitcher. In his last start, he turned in a terrific outing against Miami, limiting them to one earned run on three hits over seven innings. He struck out a season-high nine while walking two, and picked up his third win of the year. He has alternated wins and losses in his five starts this year, which would be good news for New York. The Mets hit Morton hard last year, posting a 4.98 ERA against him in 21 2⁄3 innings across four starts.
Butto (2023): 9.2 IP, 3 K, 10 BB, 1 HR, 2.79 ERA, 7.17 FIP, 1.97 WHIP, 0.2 bWAR
While Butto’s ERA seems fine over his two major league appearances this year, the rest of his numbers are alarming. It’s not often you see a starting pitcher walk 10 against three strikeouts—typically, you would want those numbers to be inverted. But his command has been a huge issue, and he has demonstrated an inability to put batters away when given the opportunity. Typically, he’s been behind in the count, throwing far too many first-pitch balls. Assuming there is no rainout this weekend, however, he remains the likely candidate to receive one more start in Scherzer’s absence.
Monday, May 1: Bryce Elder vs. Max Scherzer, 1:10 p.m. on SNY
Elder (2023): 29.0 IP, 26 K 9 BB, 3 HR, 2.17 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 1.0 bWAR
After posting a 3.17 ERA across 54 innings for Atlanta last year, Elder has pitched his way into the rotation in 2023, and has done a great job so far. The 23-year-old is coming off his roughest outing of the season so far, as he allowed four earned runs in 5 1⁄3 innings against Miami. Prior to that, he had allowed just four runs (three earned) across his first three starts of the year. The right-hander mad one relief outing against the Mets last year and allowed three earned runs over 2 1⁄3 innings.
Scherzer (2023): 19.1 IP, 17 K, 9 BB, 4 HR, 3.72 ERA, 5.67 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 0.4 bWAR
The team has not announced this, but I’ll be presumptuous and slot Scherzer into the Monday start. Scherzer’s ten-game suspension will officially expire on May 1, but if a game (or two) is rained out this weekend, that will only prolong his return. The last time we saw the future Hall of Famer on the mound, he was getting tossed by Phil Cuzzi due to an illegal combination of sweat and rosin—the combo has since become a fashion statement and a rallying cry for the team, though they may want to consider focusing on hitting rather than fighting MLB’s rules. Scherzer is riding eight consecutive scoreless innings at least, having shut out the Dodgers for three innings his last time out after blanking the Padres for five in his previous outing. Still, all things considered, the team will need Scherzer to return to his dominant form.
Prediction: Presuming they get four games in (doubtful), the Mets find a way to eke out one win but drop the other three games to their division nemesis.
How will the Mets fare in their four game series against the Braves?
This poll is closed
The Mets stun Atlanta with a sweep!
The Mets manage to recover with a series win by taking three of four.
The Mets and Braves split their series.
The Mets steal one game but drop another series.
The Mets are swept away at home to sink further in the NL East standings.