The NL East is about as tight as it can be up top, with the Braves, Phillies and Nationals all within a game of each other. The first-place Braves have gone just 5-5 in their last ten games and lost both of their last two series, but the Mets have not been able to capitalize. A four-game set in Atlanta will provide ample opportunity to close the gap, and the Mets will miss the Braves’ two best starters this year, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb. Instead they will likely face rookie Max Fried and backend veterans Brandon McCarthy, Julio Teheran and Anibal Sanchez, the latter of whom is mentioned in this stats preview.
Magical Markakis? Nick Markakis has been a below-average regular during his time in Atlanta (WARPs of 1.9, 1.7 and 1.2 in his first three seasons), but his performance this year has conjured up visions of a more youthful time in his career. His groundballs are down (41.7% in 2018 vs. 45.8% career) and his balls in the air are up (58.3% in 2018 vs. 54.2% career). As a result, his home run rate is up (7 so far in 225 plate appearances in 2018 vs. 24 in 2,040 plate appearances from 2015-17). He also has just a 9.3% strikeout rate, which is third best among qualified batters. Is this version of Markakis going to stick around? We’ve seen veterans make launch angle adjustments to resurrect their careers before, but Markakis is running a .358 BABIP, so some regression is probably likely.
The new reliever on the block: Dan Winkler has the fifth-lowest ERA among relievers with at least 15 innings (0.84), and his 1.20 FIP and 2.02 DRA suggest his success is not an early season mirage. He has a 12.7 K/9 (13th best among relievers) and is one of the only Braves pitchers not walking the world (2.5 BB/9). Braves manager Brian Snitker has recently suggested he may start to see higher leverage situations. Winkler is a former Rule 5 draft pick and has undergone two major elbow surgeries (once for his UCL and once for a broken elbow), so look for the feel good story to make a late-inning appearance if the Mets and Braves have any close games over the next few days.
Sanchez Returns: Anibal Sanchez was in the middle of a nice rebound before the last time these two teams met. Then he injured his hamstring during a pregame warm-up. Sanchez has made a few rehab starts and now looks lined up to start Tuesday night’s game in Atlanta. If those rehab appearances are any indication of what is to come, though, it could be good news for the Mets. Sanchez carried a 10.80 ERA through 6.2 innings, and struggled with control, walking four batters.
The Good: Atlanta has three guys in the top 10 offensive WARP in Freddie Freeman (5th), Markakis (7th) and Ozzie Albies (9th).
The Bad: The Braves are just 1-5 in extra innings games.
The Ugly: Ronald Acuña Jr. took a nasty tumble past first base yesterday and appeared to hurt his knee. He did walk off the field though.
In a series that started off well, the four-game set with the Brewers ended up being deflating. At least the offense showed signs of life though: the 21 runs over four games were the most the team has scored in a four-game stretch since playing the Cardinals and Padres from April 26-29.