MLB

Braves vs. Mets: Four things to know, prediction, how to watch as rivals meet with first place on the line

Monday night at Truist Park, the NL East rival New York Mets and Atlanta Braves open a rather important three-game series. The defending World Series champions have been one of the hottest teams in baseball since the calendar flipped to June and they’ve whittled New York’s division lead down to 1 1/2 games. It was 10 1/2 games on June 1. 

Here are the NL East standings as of Monday morning. The 1 1/2-game lead is New York’s smallest since April 16:

  1. Mets: 53-33
  2. Braves: 52-35 (1 1/2 GB)
  3. Phillies: 46-40 (7 GB)
  4. Marlins: 41-43 (11 GB)
  5. Nationals: 30-58 (24 GB)

Last season the Mets spent more than 100 days in first place, the most ever by a team that finished the season with a losing record. Given their torrid start this year, I’m certain the Mets didn’t anticipate going into Atlanta in mid July up only 1 1/2 games. They want to avoid a repeat of last season and taking care of business in head-to-head games is imperative.

“We’re not going to clinch the division this week,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday. “There’s a long way to go. We got another half. We’re playing good baseball. It’s going to be a good series.”  

Here are the details for this weekend’s three-game set in Atlanta. Games on MLB Network can be streamed on fuboTV (try for free).

Mon., July 11

7:20 p.m. ET

RHP Max Scherzer (5-1, 2.26) vs. LHP Max Fried (9-2, 2.52)

SNY, Bally Sports South

Tues., July 12

7:20 p.m. ET

LHP David Peterson (5-1, 3.48) vs. RHP Spencer Strider (4-2, 2.60)

SNY, Bally Sports South

Weds., July 13

12:20 p.m. ET

RHP Chris Bassitt (6-6, 3.94) vs. RHP Charlie Morton (4.21)

SNY, Bally Sports South, MLB Network

Three wonderful and fitting pitching matchups. The aces go Monday, the youngsters go Tuesday, then the grizzled veterans go Wednesday. Rarely do the pitching matchups line up so perfectly. Should be a fun three games in Atlanta.

Here are four things to know heading into this week’s three-game set at Truist Park, plus a prediction, because why not?

1. They’re about to see a lot more of each other

Despite being division rivals and despite the season being more than halfway complete, the Mets and Braves have only played one series in 2022. They split four games at Citi Field in early May. This week’s series is the first of four remaining between these two clubs. Their remaining head-to-head matchups:

  • July 11-13: 3 games at Truist Park
  • Aug 4-7: 5 games at Citi Field (includes a doubleheader)
  • Aug. 15-18: 4 games at Truist Park
  • Sept. 30 to Oct. 2: 3 games at Truist Park (second=to-last series of the season)

The Mets and Braves were originally scheduled to play a two-game series in New York from April 4-5. That series was wiped out by the owners’ lockout, and the two games were rescheduled. One was made up as part of a doubleheader on May 3. The other will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Aug. 6. That’s why they’ll play five games in four days from Aug. 4-7.

From here on out, roughly one out of every five games the Mets and Braves play will be against each other. Also, note they’ll play nine games in a 15-day span from Aug. 4-18. A stretch like that against a division rival can make or break a season. Selfishly, I hope the NL East race comes down to that Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 series (or later!). That would be good television.

2. Both teams are missing key players.

Injuries are part of the game and the Braves and Mets will both be without important players this series. Mets ace Jacob deGrom (shoulder) is on a minor-league rehab assignment, but is still 2-3 weeks away from rejoining the team. The Braves, meanwhile, are without second baseman Ozzie Albies (foot). He will be sidelined until at least mid-August.

Here’s a quick rundown of New York’s notable injured players:

  • RHP Jacob deGrom: Stress reaction in shoulder (will make at least one more rehab start)
  • C James McCann: Oblique strain (placed on the injured list Sunday)
  • RHP Tylor Megill: Shoulder strain (out until mid-August)
  • RHP Trevor May: Triceps inflammation (out until at least late July)

The Mets are expected to activate reserve outfielder Travis Jankowski from the injured list prior to Monday’s series opener. He’s been out with a broken hand since late May and that’s good news, because Starling Marte is dealing with a groin injury and is day-to-day. Marte is expected to avoid the injured list, though his availability for this series is unclear.

Now here are the notable players Atlanta will be without this series:

  • 2B Ozzie Albies: Broken foot (out until at least mid-August)
  • RHP Kenley Jansen: Irregular heartbeat (expected to be activated this week)
  • RHP Mike Soroka: Achilles surgery (timetable uncertain)

Jansen is eligible to be activated off the injured list Tuesday, though given the nature of his ailment, the Braves aren’t going to rush anything. He has had heart issues throughout his career and “had his heart shocked last week to restore (his normal heart rate),” according to The Athletic. For what it’s worth, Jansen has been able to go through full workouts in recent days.

3. The Braves will have a new player

And it’s a familiar face for Mets fans: Robinson Canó. Atlanta acquired the eight-time All-Star on Sunday and he is expected to join the club Monday. With Albies out another few weeks, Canó could see a good amount of playing time at second base, where Phil Gosselin and Orlando Arcia have been holding down the fort the last few weeks.

Since Albies got hurt Atlanta’s second basemen are hitting .225/.286/.303 with two home runs, so it won’t take much for Canó to be an upgrade. That said, the 39-year-old authored a .149/.182/.189 batting line in 77 plate appearances with the Mets and Padres earlier this year, and his bat looked lifeless. Canó hit .333/.375/.479 with three homers in 21 Triple-A games with San Diego, and obviously the Braves believe that’s a sign he still has something left to give. We’ll find out starting Monday.

4. Who’s hot, who’s not?

The 162-game season is a marathon and with it comes ups and downs (and then more ups and more downs). Some players are entering this series on a hot streak, others are coming in cold. Here are three Mets players who have torn the cover off the ball the last two weeks:

JD Davis

20

.278/.350/.500

1

5

Starling Marte

46

.381/.435/.619

2

4

Mark Canha

39

.258/.410/.323

0

1

Marte’s groin injury comes at an unfortunate time because he has been New York’s best hitter the last two weeks. Francisco Lindor (.196/.275/.391) and Pete Alonso (.222/.271/.333) have struggled the last two weeks and Marte was carrying the load offensively. Canha is getting on base a ton but isn’t hitting for any power, and Davis is a man without a defined role. His recent production could lead to more playing time moving forward.

Now here are three Braves players heading into this week’s series riding a two-week hot streak:

The Braves have more hitters who are hot right now than not. Among others, Adam Duvall (.316/.381/.789) has been great in limited action around paternity leave the last two weeks and rookie Michael Harris II has slugged four homers in his last 13 games. Eddie Rosario is 5 for 23 (.217) since coming off the injured list and is Atlanta’s only hitter who is really trying to grind through it at the plate right now.

Here’s where I note what happened the last two weeks has little bearing on what will happen this week. Things can change on a dime in this sport and a hitter who is hot today could be ice cold tomorrow. That said, I’d rather know my hitters are feeling good at the plate heading into an important series, which this one certainly is, even at this point in the season.

5. Prediction

Let’s close with a prediction, shall we? Because I’m a fan of tight races and want as much meaningful baseball as possible late in the season, I’ll say the Braves win two of three. That would trim the Mets’ lead to a half-game and set us up for a nice NL East race in the second half, especially with these two teams having so many head-to-head games remaining.



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