Series Preview: Braves vs. Mets

Kevin C. Cox

After a week-long road trip to open the series, the Braves finally come home.

There have been 181 days between the last game played at Turner Field on October 4, 2013 and the first game played at the Ted in 2014, which will come on April 8th, 2014. We will not have to wait a 182nd day, as the Braves have returned home and are preparing for their home opening series of the 2014 campaign against the New York Mets.

The Braves began the season with a road trip to a traditional house of horrors in Milwaukee and another trip to see their divisional rivals in the nation's Capital. Both series were successful, as the Braves were able to get 4 wins out of 6, taking both series. The Braves did this with the offense being dormant for the most part, and mostly relied on a hodgepodge pitching staff to get them through this series. Julio Teheran made two solid starts on the road, compiling an ERA of 2.77 and a FIP of 4.25 with an impressive LOB% of 82.2%, which is a shade above strand rate he had in 2013.

Teheran will not be pitching in this series, however, and indeed, the starting pitching responsibilities will be handled by the two reasons why this rotation is currently considered a "patchwork" one: David Hale and Aaron Harang. Hale got through his first start of the season against the Nationals with 5 scoreless innings, which were instrumental in the Braves eventual victory over the Nats in that game. Harang also did admirable work in his first start as he entered the 7th inning of his start against the Brewers with no hits allowed. Eventually he did give up a hit, but he too has a spotless ERA. The third starter for this series also has a clean ERA of 0.00, but that's only because he's making his 2014 debut. Ervin Santana will take the hill on Wednesday night, and even though his last Minor League start wasn't spectacular, he should do better with the Braves' defense that has somehow accumulated 11 DRS through their first 6 games.

Although it'd be extremely unrealistic to expect all of these pitchers to keep their ERAs at 0.00, it could stay pretty low, as the Mets haven't exactly been Murderer's Row through their first 2 series of the season. The Mets as a team have been hitting .178/.251/.346 with 71 wRC+ during that span on their way to a 2-4 record. The Braves haven't come out of the gate much better offensively, but the reason why the Braves have the reverse record appears to be that the Mets' bullpen appears to be as bad as advertised in the Spring. Even worse, closer Bobby Parnell has gone down with a partially torn MCL in his elbow and has to get Tommy John Surgery. Needless to say, if the Braves can take advantage of the Mets' bullpen like the Nationals did, then they'll probably have a very good chance of taking this series. If they can't spark offense off of the Mets' bullpen like the Reds failed to, then this will be a very competitive series. Braves did it will be key for the Braves' bats to run the Mets' starters out of the game, as it appears that the bullpen is the soft underbelly of the Mets.

This might be the cliche X-Factor of the series though, because the Braves don't have all that much experience against the 3 starters that the Mets will roll out this series. Bartolo Colon has spent most of his career in the American League. In fact, the last time Colon pitched against the Braves was 12 years ago in September of 2002. As expected, there are no current Braves who have seen Colon, and only 4 current Braves have faced off against young right-hander and Wednesday's starter, Jennry Mejia. Most of the Braves have hit against Zack Wheeler, and Freddie Freeman has had the most success against Wheeler, going 4-6 with a slash line of .667/.778/1.167 with a solo HR. However, the Braves as a whole hit .214/.329/.386 with 4 HRs and 5 runs scored against Wheeler last season. With that being said, Wheeler wasn't very sharp in his most recent start, so it'll be very important for the Braves to try to add some numbers to those stats on Wednesday.

The Braves went 10-9 against the Mets last season, which included the team splitting all 10 games here in Atlanta. Braves-Mets games have always been hotly contested at the Ted, and this series looks to be a very intriguing one.

Probable Pitching Matchups

April 8th @ 7:10 PM EST

Bartolo Colon (NYM, 0-1, 4.50 ERA, 6.10 FIP, 96.8% LOB% (73.3% for career))

vs.

Aaron Harang (ATL, 0.00 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 38.9% GB%)

April 9th @ 7:10 PM EST

Zack Wheeler (NYM, 0-1, 4.50 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 1.50 WHIP)

vs.

Ervin Santana (ATL, 3.24 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 18.7% K% in 2013)

April 10th @ 7:10 PM EST

Jenrry Mejia (NYM, 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 12.00 K/9)

vs.

David Hale (ATL, 0.00 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 21.1% K%)

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