The biggest series of the season will get underway for the Atlanta Braves Friday night when they square off with the New York Mets for the final time during the regular season. The Braves are coming into the series one game back in the NL East standings and have little margin for error. New York has a 9-7 edge in the season series with Atlanta which means that the Braves need to sweep the three games to wrest away the tiebreaker advantage, given that MLB’s new postseason rules do not allow for a Game 163. The division winner will receive a first-round bye and would avoid a potential second round matchup against the Dodgers. So, expect a playoff feel for this series as two of the three games will be televised nationally on FOX and ESPN.
The Braves come into the series with a 17-8 record in September and are 52-26 at Truist Park this season. They have won six of 10 overall and had a four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday with a 3-2 loss to the Nationals in 10 innings. The Mets are 15-10 in September and have a 47-31 record on the road. They have won seven of 10 and avoided a two-game sweep to the Marlins with a walk-off 5-4 win in 10 innings Wednesday.
Michael Harris II moved up to the third spot in the Braves’ order Wednesday and has been a catalyst for the team down the stretch. While he has turned in a Gold Glove-caliber performance in center field, he has also been the team’s most consistent performer offensively in September. Harris is hitting .327/.347/.582 with six home runs and a 156 wRC+. However, “consistent” is kind of a weird adjective, because his wOBA and xwOBA are all over the place period to period, though we enjoy the chaos he bestows on opposing teams’ pitching and defenses. He needs one more home run to become the first Braves rookie in franchise history with a 20-20 season.
The Mets’ lineup doesn’t have the same thunder that Atlanta has, but has produced consistently throughout the season. After an up-and-down start, Eduardo Escobar has been red hot in September, hitting .330/.379/.638 with eight home runs and has driven in 24 runs. Pete Alonso has topped 40 home runs for the season and leads the majors with 131 RBI. Francisco Lindor is having an MVP-type year by combining great defense with great hitting. Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo have produced a ton of value this season and a super-annoying to play against.
Atlanta will roll out Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton to start the series. Rookie sensation Spencer Strider would have figured into the mix before a sore oblique sent him to the Injured List. New York has lined up its best as well in Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt.
The Mets have Edwin Diaz, but it is the overall bullpen where the Braves have an advantage in the series. Since September 1, Atlanta’s relievers have a 1.57 ERA and a 2.84 FIP which leads the National League by a wide gap. The Mets’ relief corps is basically the impossibly-good arm of Edwin Diaz and a very solid Adam Ottavino, and then... who knows?
Friday, September 30, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Jacob deGrom (10 GS, 58.1 IP, 41.9 K%, 3.7 BB%, 2.93 ERA, 1.74 FIP)
The Mets have juggled their rotation to have Jacob deGrom start the series opener on Friday. While injuries cost deGrom a large chunk of the season, his performance has played a huge factor for the Mets down the stretch. Despite making just 10 starts and logging 58 1⁄3 innings pitched, he has amassed 2.3 fWAR. That said, deGrom is coming off of his worst start of the season, where he allowed six hits and five runs in just four innings against Oakland. deGrom walked four, which equaled his season total in his previous nine outings. If you are looking for a shred of hope, it is that deGrom has allowed at least three runs in his last three starts and has given up a home run in each. But, he also has 28 strikeouts in just 15 innings during that span.
deGrom dominated the Braves twice in August, but the Braves still went 1-1 in those starts, as Harris doubled off Seth Lugo right after deGrom departed to score the go-ahead run in a 3-2 win. It’s not likely that deGrom is going to have an out-and-out bad start against the Braves, so they’ll likely need to outlast him.
Max Fried (29 GS, 180.1 IP, 23.4 K%, 4.5 BB%, 2.50 ERA, 2.73 FIP)
The Braves opted to skip Max Fried’s turn in the rotation in Washington and give him a few extra days of rest before Friday’s series opener against the Mets. Fried allowed five hits, one run and struck out eight over five innings in his last start in Philadelphia. However, he needed 107 pitches to do so. The Braves need him to deliver another excellent performance on Friday night. Fried has allowed two earned runs or less in nine straight starts, and by not allowing a homer to the Phillies last time out, snapped his multi-homer consecutive games streak at two.
Fried has started four games against the Mets this season, and the Braves have gone 2-2 in them. He beat them with a good outing in New York early, and then really struggled at home (5/5 K/BB ratio) against them in July. That flipped in August as he lost a BABIP-y/bad defense game in New York and then helped the Braves beat them and deGrom in Atlanta. The Braves will take the result of these two aces’ most-recent matchup, for sure, as that was a 3-2 win.
Saturday, October 1, 7:20 p.m. ET (FOX)
Max Scherzer (22 GS, 139.2 IP, 31.3 K%, 4.4 BB%, 2.13 ERA, 2.47 FIP)
Max Scherzer will get the call for the Mets in the second game of the series Saturday night. Scherzer has made two starts since being sidelined with a sore oblique and has been lights out, allowing just four hits and one run to go along with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings. Scherzer has faced the Braves three times this season and has been dominant allowing 10 hits, five runs while racking up 28 strikeouts in 20 1⁄3 innings; the Mets have cruised to easy wins in all three of his starts against the Braves.
Kyle Wright (29 GS, 175.1 IP, 23.9 K%, 7.3 BB%, 3.18 ERA, 3.62 FIP)
Kyle Wright will get the nod opposite Scherzer in Saturday’s matchup. Wright became Atlanta’s first 20-game winner since 2003 in his last start against the Phillies. Since allowing a season-high eight runs in Oakland on September 6, Wright has allowed five runs combined over his next three outings. Wright has faced New York twice this season and has allowed nine runs in 13 innings. Neither of his starts were good (and one was one of the worst of his career by FIP); the Braves really need the script to be flipped here to have a decent chance of winning the division.
Sunday, October 2, 7:08 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Chris Bassitt (29 GS, 179.0 IP, 22.6 K%, 6.3 BB%, 3.27 ERA, 3.55 FIP)
Right-hander Chris Bassitt will wrap up the series for the Mets Sunday. Bassitt was a low-key trade acquisition for New York during the offseason, but he has played a big role in the Mets’ season by racking up 179 innings while posting solid peripherals en route to a 3ish-win season. He pitched well his last time out, allowing six hits and two runs while tying a season-high with eight innings.
The Braves and Mets have split Bassitt’s two starts against Atlanta, though he pitched pretty well in both.
Charlie Morton (30 GS, 167.2 IP, 28.4 K%, 8.8 BB%, 4.29 ERA, 4.18 FIP)
Charlie Morton will make his final start of the 2022 regular season in Sunday’s series finale. After pitching better through the middle portion of the season, Morton has been inconsistent in September. He allowed six hits and six runs, including two home runs, in 4 2⁄3 innings against the Phillies in his last start. He has made five starts this month and has allowed at least four runs in three of them.
Morton’s been about as inconsistent against the Mets this season as he has been in general. He had two pretty bad starts against them in May and July, but dominated them in August in what was more or less his best start of the year, and one of the best, if not the best, of his career: 6 2⁄3 IP, 1 BB, 12 K.