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Preview: Garcia, Harvey look for fresh starts in rubber game

Both Jaime Garcia and Matt Harvey have battled injury woes despite oodles of talent, but tonight’s rubber game gives both of them a chance to start fresh.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a frustrating loss on Opening Day and a Matt Kemp-led extra-innings victory on Wednesday, the Braves and Mets will face off in a rubber game on Thursday night.

Jaime Garcia, acquired from the Cardinals in the offseason, will make his Braves debut at Citi Field. Throughout his career, Garcia has generally been two things: 1) quite effective, with a career 3.0 fWAR per 200 innings pitched; and, 2) not particularly durable, as he’s played in parts of eight major league seasons and has never eclipsed the 200 innings mark, gone above 190 innings once, gone above 170 innings twice, and gone above 100 innings just four times.

Matt Harvey has had a twisting, winding career path of his own. After an exciting 10-start debut in 2012, Harvey blazed to an insane 6.5 fWAR, 2.27 ERA, and 2.00 FIP in 2013, striking out over 27 percent of the batters he faced. But, in late August, he was bit with the dreaded “needs Tommy John Surgery” bug, and missed the entire 2014 season.

Harvey came back still-very-good-but-not-great in 2015, showing an elevated walk rate and lowered strikeout rate compared to his dominant 2013 campaign, but still posted 4.4 fWAR. Sadly for him, though, his season ended as he couldn’t escape the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series, and the Mets ended up losing the game and the championship on that day.

Last season, Harvey continued to show declines in his peripherals, and was reported to have struggled mechanically. He pitched just 93 innings before being shut down in July with thoracic outlet syndrome, and amassed a 4.86 ERA, but a still-very-good 3.47 FIP and 2.0 fWAR for the year. (His .353 BABIP for the year suggests he was getting unlucky, especially given that his exit velocity was not worrisome, though he did allow a 25 percent line drive rate.) Notably, Jaime Garcia is also a survivor of thoracic outlet syndrome: he had a rib removed in 2014, two years before Harvey underwent the same procedure.

If Harvey can regain some velocity and whiff rate on his fastball and look more like his 2013 or 2015 self, the Braves may be in for another long, offensive night. But, if he is more reminiscent of 2016 Matt Harvey, the Braves bats may consider it a lighter workload than having to face off against Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom in the first two games of this series. The Braves didn’t score at all when Syndergaard started, and scored all three of their runs this season in yesterday’s game off the New York bullpen after deGrom departed.

Also, a really weird fact: here is the Mets’ schedule to start the season, in terms of opponents: Braves-Marlins-Phillies-Marlins-Phillies-Nationals-Braves-Nationals-Braves-Marlins. The first time the Mets play someone other than an NL East opponent is going to be on May 8th, when they host the Giants. Who made this schedule?

FiveThirtyEight gives the Braves a 39 percent chance of winning this game, based on a methodology that I think is interesting but don’t really agree with.

Jay Boice and Gus Wezerek, FiveThirtyEight,

Game Info

Atlanta Braves (1-1) @ New York Mets (1-1)

Thursday, April 6, 2017, 7:10 pm ET

Citi Field, Queens, New York

TV: Fox Sports Southeast

Radio: Braves Radio Network, 680 AM/93.7 FM

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