With the NL East division on the line, the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets will meet in the arguably the most important series of the season Friday night at Truist Park. The Braves enter play Friday just one game behind the Mets in the NL East standings. Atlanta can move back into the driver’s seat with a sweep. Taking two of the three games would give them a chance although they would still need help.
One added wrinkle is that the Braves are 7-9 against the Mets this season. In the event of a tie, the division will be determined on head-to-head record instead a Game 163 tiebreaker as in years past. Therefore, a single Mets victory this weekend will clinch the season series and they’d only need to tie with the Braves to win the division.
Atlanta took three of four games from New York at Truist Park back in mid-August, but they will have their work cut out for them this weekend.
The Braves elected to skip Max Fried’s scheduled start in Washington in order to give him a extra few days of rest and will have him go in the opener Friday. That would also line Fried up to start the last game of the regular season in Miami should that game still be important.
Fried has turned in another banner season, but hasn't been quite a dominant in recent starts. He held the Phillies to just one run and struck out eight in five innings in his last start, but needed 107 pitches. He matched up against Jacob deGrom on August 18 and allowed four hits, two runs and struck out six in seven innings. The Braves need him to put up zeroes and give their offense a chance to get deGrom out of the game.
The Mets also juggled their rotation to line up deGrom for Friday’s start. deGrom flexed his muscles against Atlanta in his second start back from the injured list retiring the first 17 hitters he faced before a walk and a home run by Dansby Swanson ended his afternoon. The Braves pinned deGrom’s first loss of the season on him two starts later where he allowed five hits, three runs and struck out nine in 6 2⁄3 innings.
While his stuff has been electric, deGrom has allowed at least three earned runs in each of his last three starts. Oakland tagged him for six hits and five runs in just four innings last time out. He’s allowed 11 earned runs in his last 15 innings, but also has 28 strikeouts over that span.
If the Braves are going to have a chance in the series, then they are going to need their stars to perform. Matt Olson has endured a deep second half slump, but showed signs of life earlier this week in Washington. While most of the focus has been on Olson, Austin Riley is hitting .204/.312/.387 in September and hasn’t driven in a run in nine games. Riley has a .712 OPS with three home runs in 16 games against the Mets this season. He has a .911 OPS with 14 home runs and 30 RBI in his career against New York.
For the Mets, Eduardo Escobar has been red hot down the stretch hitting .330 with a 1.017 OPS with eight home runs and 24 RBI in September. Francisco Lindor is riding a 13-game hitting streak and is hitting .290/.338/.436 with two homers in 16 games against Atlanta this season.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. ET Friday night and can be seen on Bally Sports Southeast.
Game Date/Time: Friday, September 30, 7:20 p.m. ET
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan