The sky is falling in Flushing as the reeling Mets welcome last-place Atlanta to Citi Field for the second time this month in the midst of 32 straight games against National League East opponents to open the season. Playing shorthanded offensively due to a bevy of injuries to key players, New York was swept by Bryce Harper and the powerhouse Nationals over the weekend and has now lost four straight and eight of their last nine.
A visit from the Braves may be just what the doctor ordered for manager Terry Collins’ ailing squad, as The Traveling Bartolos are in the midst of a six-game losing streak themselves after being swept in two straight series by Washington and Philadelphia.
While the Braves are building for the future with a combination of up-and-coming talent and veterans on short-term deals serving as stopgaps, the Mets were projected by Baseball Prospectus to win 88 games and compete for the division title. Expected to get a boost on Tuesday night with the possible return of slugger Yoenis Cespedes from a hamstring injury, New York will be under some pressure to begin righting the ship in this three-game set as they currently sit 5 1/2 games back of the division-leading Nationals.
When and Where
Game 1: Tuesday @ 7:10 p.m (TV: SNY; RADIO: 710 WOR, ESPN Deportes)
Game 2: Wednesday @ 7:10 p.m. (TV: SNY; RADIO: 710 WOR, ESPN Deportes)
Game 3: Thursday @ 1:10 p.m. (TV: SNY, MLB Network; RADIO: 710 WOR, ESPN Deportes)
Probable Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: RHP Julio Teheran (1-1, 3.52 ERA, 2.92 DRA, .266 TAv, 0.6 WARP) vs. RHP Robert Gsellman (0-1, 5.09 ERA, 4.58 DRA, .317 TAv, 0.1 WARP)
The typically reliable Teheran saw his ERA rise over 2.5 runs while suffering his first loss of the season last Wednesday against the Nationals, allowing seven runs over four frames including a solo homer and a grand slam to Harper. Gsellman, meanwhile, was largely responsible for the Mets’ last victory on Wednesday. The long-haired rookie held the Phillies to three runs in seven strong innings, striking out seven en route to a no-decision in New York’s 5-4 win.
Wednesday: RHP R.A. Dickey (1-2, 3.86 ERA, 7.94 DRA, .288 TAv, -0.6 WARP) vs. RHP Noah Syndergaard (1-1, 1.73 ERA, 1.47 DRA, .224 TAv, 1.1 WARP)
The first of two ex-Mets taking the hill in this series, the 42-year-old Dickey suffered the loss to Washington on Thursday despite allowing only three runs on three hits over seven innings. The veteran knuckleballer did not face his former club in the Braves’ first trip to Queens earlier in the month. Although he struck out ten, Syndergaard lost to the Phillies in his last outing; charged with five runs (three earned) in seven innings. The imposing fireballer has yet to issue a walk or surrender a home run this season.
Thursday: RHP Bartolo Colon (1-2, 4.50 ERA, 5.23 DRA, .240 TAv, -0.1 WARP) vs. RHP Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.84 ERA, 3.09 DRA, .241 TAv, 0.6 WARP)
The fan-favorite and cult hero faces the Mets for the second time this season, hurling six innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 Atlanta victory on Apr. 5. Colon lost at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night, allowing four runs on eleven hits in a 4-3 loss to the Phillies. Harvey also pitched on Friday in the Mets’ 4-3 loss to Washington, charged with three runs in seven innings for his second consecutive quality start and also the second straight no-decision.
Braves 2B Brandon Phillips (.343 AVG, 5 doubles, 5 stolen bases; 7-for-16 over his last four games)
Braves RHP Jose Ramirez (6 scoreless innings over last six relief outings, including 5 strikeouts and a .063 opponents’ BA)
Mets OF Michael Conforto (.361 AVG, .436 TAv, 4 HR in 44 PA, 1.4 WARP; 7 hits in his last 15 at-bats with 2 HRs)
Braves SS Dansby Swanson (.139 AVG, .142 TAv, .162 OBP, 3 RBI, -0.6 WARP; 3-for-28 with no XBH since Apr. 16)
Mets OF Curtis Granderson (.149 AVG, 1 HR, 6 RBI, -0.5 WARP; .077 (2-for-26) in his last seven games)
Mets 3B Jose Reyes (.104 AVG, .189 OBP, -0.7 WARP)
Mets 2B Neil Walker (.136 (3-for-22) over his last six games)
When We Last Met
New York took two out of three from Atlanta to kick off the season, including a 6-0 shutout on Opening Day.
Bumps and Bruises
Braves: OF Matt Kemp rejoined the team for their weekend in Philadelphia after missing eight games with a strained right hamstring. The two-time All-Star was 6-for-13 with four doubles and two home runs in the opening series at Citi Field three weeks ago.
Mets: C Travis d’Arnaud (bruised right wrist) has not put on the catcher’s gear since last Wednesday against the Phillies. The 28-year-old, who was a late scratch from Sunday’s lineup after continuing to experience pain when throwing, is 0-for-4 as a pinch hitter while dealing with this injury. Cespedes (left hamstring), who last played on Thursday before limping off of the field in the fifth inning, is expected to start the series opener on Tuesday. SS Asdrubal Cabrera (left hamstring) continues to play through noticeable soreness, manning his position for all nine innings on both Saturday and Sunday.
“The concern is to get healthy, because once we get healthy and we get our lineup back in there I think things will turn around.” – Collins, after losing the series finale against Washington on Sunday
“I think it’s the approach. Laying off tough pitches, swinging at pitches that are in my zone and pitches that I hit well. I think that’s big the thing. Stick to my strengths.” – Conforto on his recent success
“We’re in every game we’ve played. We’ve got a six-game losing streak… We’ve been in every one of them so it’s a play here, a hit here, a pitch here, it’s something. You can always find it, but overall we’re not that far off.” – Braves manager Brian Snitker on Sunday, following his club’s sixth straight loss
Photo credit: Bill Streicher – USA Today Sports