Hey guys, look! The Braves are finally playing the Mets again! We haven't seen our rivals in blue-and-orange since the 2014 season was a wee little baby in April, and since then, their season has gone just about how people expected it would for them: Not that well.
They're currently 37-45, which puts them in 4th, 7 games behind the Braves (who are in 1st) and 1 game ahead of the Phillies, who are currently in last after Atlanta handed them a 4-game sweep over the weekend. The Mets were also in Pennsylvania this weekend, though their trip to the Keystone State wasn't exactly as successful as the Braves' trip was, as they dropped 3 out of 4 to the Pirates. They've lost 4 out of 5 while the Braves are heading into this series having won 6 out of their past 7. That, combined with the pitching matchups for this week make it seem as if this is a very good time for the Braves to face the Mets. Emphasis on the word "seem," there. I'll expound on that, later.
So far, Zack Wheeler (Monday's starter for the Mets) has been New York's best pitcher this season. However, with an ERA of 4.45, a FIP of 3.28, and a poor LOB% of 66%, that's not exactly ace material here. In addition, the Braves have faced him twice and had a decent amount of success, going 14-46 against him in 2014 which is good for .304/.347/.457. Wheeler's biggest tormentor so far? Jason Heyward, who has gone 5-6 against Wheeler this season with a homer, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored on him. The two games that the Braves played against the Mets where Wheeler was the starter? One resulted in a Braves victory, while the other resulted in a Mets victory, after 14 innings. Every run that the Braves scored in those two games was credited to Wheeler, so needless to say, the Braves haven't had much of a problem getting to Wheeler so far, and with the way that the Braves have been hitting as of late, there's no reason not to think that this won't be the case tonight. Meanwhile, the Mets haven't faced Alex Wood yet in 2014, so they'll be venturing into new territory on Monday night.
On Tuesday, the Braves will have to deal with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who Atlanta has also seen twice this season, though Dice-K's appearances were both in relief. He pitched 3 innings in the aforementioned 14-inning affair, and it actually went extremely well for Matsuzaka: 3 IP, 5 Ks, and only 1 walk. That was a sight better than his performance the day earlier, which is when a wild pitch of his resulted in Justin Upton scoring the 4th run of a game where the Braves ended up scoring 7. With that being said, that only gives us 4 innings to work with here, so how has Matsuzaka done over the season? 3.23 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 4.75 xFIP, 0.0 fWAR. Not exactly imposing. On the other side, the Mets have yet to see Mike Minor in 2014, so this will be another first-time encounter for New York.
It'll be the Braves' turn to see someone for the first time on Wednesday, as the Mets will be starting Jacob deGrom, who was called up by the Mets in mid-May due to Dillon Gee having to go on the DL. The rookie deGrom has only had 9 starts so far, but he's done well enough as a rookie with a 3.62 ERA and a 4.02 FIP, good for 0.2 fWAR. Those numbers are similar to Dice-K's, but once again, deGrom's a rookie and Dice-K isn't. So there's that. Meanwhile, Atlanta will be sending Julio Teheran to the mound, so it's pretty easy to say that the Braves will have the advantage on the mound on Wednesday. As a matter of fact, the Braves should have the advantage on the mound for the entire series, as the Mets' pitching staff as a whole is not very good. The rotation is ranked 12th in the NL by fWAR, and the bullpen is ranked dead last in the NL. That's good for the 14th best overall staff in the NL. You don't need me to tell you that that's bad.
So, the Mets' pitching staff is nowhere near the best. What about their offense? Well for starters, the first guy you'd think of when it comes to the Mets and hitting is David Wright. Wright hasn't played since the 26th, and he's currently listed as day-to-day with a shoulder ailment. Although we wish him well, I think that the Braves might want him to take as long as he possibly can to return from that injury, since Wright has gone 11-27 against Atlanta this season with 2 walks, 4 RBI, and 5 runs against the Braves. He looked like he was well on his way to continuing his proud career of torturing the Braves, so Atlanta won't exactly miss Wright if it turns out that Wright won't be able to play this week. Overall, Wright has actually gotten off to a slow start for his standards, as he's only been hitting .277/.333/.396 with 106 wRC+ with 6 HRs, which is good for 1.0 fWAR, only 5th best on the Mets. Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, and Lucas Duda have been the 3 best hitters for the Mets, with Duda's wRC+ mark of 133 and Murphy's overall slash line of .301/.351/.417 being the stats of interest here.
Meanwhile, Juan Lagares is actually 2nd on the Mets fWAR leaderboard with 1.6 (behind Daniel Murphy's mark of 2.4), but it's not because of his bat. Lagares is well known for his excellent defense, and he's lived up to that rep with a DRS of 13 through 46 games and a UZR/150 of 27.7, which would put him near the top of NL leaderboards, right up there with Jason Heyward. He's the clear defensive star of the team, even if he's been struggling at the plate since coming off of the DL earlier this month.
So, at the halfway point of the season, the Mets have been exactly who everyone figured they'd be. With that being said, earlier in this preview I said that it "seems" as if this is a good time to face the Mets. I said "seems" because this is a team that's always managed to give the Braves fits over the past couple of years, especially at the Ted for some strange reason. The pitching matchups are in the Braves favor, and the Mets' offense isn't exactly imposing, yet because it's the Mets in Atlanta, we should probably expect something unexpected like Eric Young turning into Rickey Henderson (again) or something even stranger.
Nonetheless, it's a new day, so hopefully the Braves will be able to actually take care of business against the Mets in Atlanta (and Freddie Freeman can continue his torment of the Mets (11-26 with 1 HRs and 7 RBI in 2014 against the Mets)) for a change.
Monday, June 30th at 7:10 PM EST
Alex Wood (ATL, 3-5, 2.60 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 0.9 fWAR)*
Zack Wheeler (NYM, 3-8, 4.45 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.3 fWAR)
Tuesday, July 1st at 7:10 PM EST
Mike Minor (ATL, 2-5, 4.50 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 0.2 fWAR)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (NYM, 2-2, 4.08 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 0.1 fWAR)*
Wednesday, July 2nd at 7:10 PM EST
Julio Teheran (ATL, 7-5, 2.34 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 2.0 fWAR)
Jacob deGrom (NYM, 1-4, 3.62 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 0.2 fWAR)
*Stats are as a starter