The Braves aren't doing so hot right now. Fortunately for them, the only team in the NL East doing worse is the Mets.
The Braves will try to salvage the final three games of a nine-game home stand against a 4-9 Mets team that has lost eight of its last nine, including four in a row to Colorado. The Braves will try to halt a disconcerting trend in which they've won the first game of each of the last three series, but have lost the rest.
The Mets made some drastic changes in the offseason, but none so far seem to have helped. They have a new manager (Terry Collins), a new G.M. (Sandy Alderson); they mercifully dumped Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo for more suitable options, but the moves haven't translated into wins.
Pitching matchups after the jump.
Friday, April 15, 7:30 p.m. EST:
Saturday, April 16, 4:10 p.m. EST:
Sunday, April 17, 1:35 p.m. EST:
The new additions so far have not worked out: the 5.27 ERA ranks as second worst in the NL. Chris Young and Chris Capuano were brought in to stabilize a pitching staff that would be without Johan Santana for much of the season. Young has been dominant in his two starts, having allowed only two runs in 12.1 innings; the other starters are a different story. Capuano has been hit hard, allowing about one run per inning (12.1 innings, 12 runs on 18 hits); Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese have been hit especially hard, having allowed 29 runs in 28.2 innings between them. R.A. Dickey pitched well his first start of the season against Florida, but has allowed eight runs over his last two starts. In spite of the struggles, they've racked up 102 strikeouts, tied for third best in the NL.
The Mets' 2010 bullpen wasn't too terribly bad, placing fifth in the NL with a 3.59 ERA, but with a 3.90 FIP. With the departure of Pedro Feliciano to the Yankees, the Mets looked for another lefty arm and picked up Tim Byrdak off the free agent market. Jason Isringhausen returns to the Mets as a reliever and has done well in his two appearances. Altogether, much of the bullpen hasn't been particularly sharp, posting a 4.60 ERA in 47 innings. Beato, a rookie, and Buchholz, however, have been impressive thus far, having allowed only two runs in the 14 innings between them. Francisco Rodriguez hasn't been his usual dominating self in 2011, already having allowed six hits in 4.2 innings of work. D.J. Carrasco, also picked up via free agency, will make the start on Friday in place of Chris Young, who was pushed to Sunday because of tendinitis.
The Mets offense in 2010 was anemic, posting a .249 batting average, a .697 OPS and a .308 wOBA, all ranked 13th in the NL. In order for that to change, they need Jason Bay healthy, but he hasn't been; he was placed on the DL late in Spring Training with a strained ribcage muscle. In his place, the Mets plan to use Willie Harris and Scott Hairston in a platoon role until Bay is ready. With Luis Castillo gone, the Mets looked to the minors for his replacement at second base. Brad Emaus, taken by the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft from Toronto, hit 39 home runs with a .276 average and slugged .426 in his four previous minor league seasons in the Toronto organization. In 12 games so far, he's only posted a .200 average with no extra base hits; Emaus will share second base with Daniel Murphy. With Ronny Paulino on the DL, rookie Mike Nickeas takes over the backup catcher duties.
David Wright and Jose Reyes are still the cornerstones of the Mets offense, with Reyes leading the team with a .328 average and Wright not far behind at .308. Second-year first baseman Ike Davis leads the team with 11 RBI and is second to Wright with a .878 OPS. With the emergence of Angel Pagan in the absence of Carlos Beltran in 2010, Pagan was slotted into center field, forcing Beltran to move to right. However, Pagan is off to a slow start, struggling to a .188 batting average and a .293 OBP. Reyes and Pagan both lead the team with four stolen bases, but Harris is capable of stealing a few as well. This offense currently holds a .710 OPS, good for 11th in the NL; for the Braves, it's .641, 14th in the NL.
Lineup (as used on Opening Day)
S - Jose Reyes - SS
L - Willie Harris - LF
R - David Wright - 3B
S - Carlos Beltran - RF
S - Angel Pagan - CF
L - Ike Davis - 1B
R - Brad Emaus - 2B
L - Josh Thole - C
R - Scott Hairston
L - Daniel Murphy
R - Chin-lung Hu
R - Mike Nickeas
A sweep is necessary in order for the Braves to have a winning home stand, but the team has been struggling to find wins. The Braves saw glimpses of offense in the Florida series and with a struggling Mets team, they hope to find their stroke before a long West Coast road trip.