Winning the first series of a seven game home stand against two decent inter-division was very important as the Braves quest for their first playoff berth since 2005 continues. Yesterday's thriller showed yet again that this team is one of the most resilient in baseball, and we may see more late-inning heroics as the Braves face yet another team with a weak bullpen.
The Mets were once contending with the Braves for the top spot in the division but have dropped off dramatically since the All-Star break. At the break they were 48-40 but have fallen to 65-65, going 17-25 over that span. Their run differential for the second half of the season is 127-160 compared to 396-347 in the first half.
Monday, 7:10 pm EST: Jair Jurrjens (5-4, 4.36 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 2.13 K/BB) vs. Pat Misch (0-3, 3.50 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 3.50 K/BB)
Misch only has 18 innings in the majors this season but has been impressive over that short time span. He has lasted six innings in each of his starts, allowing three runs in two of them and one in the other. Jurrjens is coming off of an extremely forgettable performance against the Rockies in which the Braves had a 10-1 lead but lost 12-10, with Jurrjens allowing seven runs over 5.1 innings pitched. Misch is the type of pitcher the Braves often have problems, but he has struggled in 12.1 innings against the Braves in his career, posting a 10.22 ERA.
Tuesday, 7:10 pm EST: Mike Minor (2-0, 4.00 ERA, 2.21 FIP, 5.50 K/BB) vs. Jon Niese (8-6, 3.63 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 2.57 K/BB)
In his career against the Braves, Niese has pitched well. He has a 3.00 ERA over 18 innings and has struck out 18 batters. He has allowed a good amount of baserunners against the Braves but has been able to strand them most of the time. Mike Minor had one of the best pitching days for a Braves rookie in the team's history, which is saying a lot considering how many great pitchers have come through the system. Minor struck out 12 Cubs and walked just one over six innings while allowing three earned runs. He has thrown a quality start, for whatever it's worth, in each of his three starts in the majors.
Wednesday, 7:10 pm EST: Tommy Hanson (8-10, 3.76 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.06 K/BB) vs. Mike Pelfrey (13-7, 3.61 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 1.65 K/BB)
Both young starters have had their ups and downs this season. Hanson has looked absolutely dominant in some games and very hittable in others, which is odd to see with a pitcher with such great stuff. Hanson was rolling up until his last two starts, with a 1.71 ERA over 58 innings and nine starts. Since then, Tommy has pitched ten innings and allowed ten runs while striking out seven and walking four. Pelfrey has had a ton of success over his last four starts -- 1.20 ERA over 30 innings and a .561 OPS against. This should be a good pitching matchup, most likely the best of the series.
Thursday, 7:10 pm EST: Tim Hudson (15-5, 2.24 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 1.88 K/BB) vs. Johan Santana (10-9, 3.02 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 2.61 K/BB)
Tim Hudson pitched his best game of the season and one of the best in his career in a 13 strikeout, seven inning, one run performance against the Marlins on Saturday. Huddy had everything going right -- probably due to the shaved beard -- and pushed himself back into the Cy Young conversation after a poor start against the Rockies earlier last week. Santana has pitched well this year, despite the hate he receives in Met country (I reside in it) for not winning ballgames. The Mets seldom score for Santana and I don't expect them to again in the series finale.
The Mets have the third lowest on base percentage in the National League, which could be largely contributed to almost no production from second base, catcher, and right field for a majority of the season. They have few players who walk and few players who hit for power, as evident by their 12th ranked ISO. Their wOBA of .306 ranks ahead of only the Pirates and Astros -- two putrid offenses. David Wright, Angel Pagan, and now Josh Thole have been above average hitters while the rest of the lineup has struggled mightily. The oft-hyped first basemen Ike Davis has a wOBA of just .331 which is close to league average, so he has not performed quite as well as some expected after he hit well in his first few weeks.
The Met bullpen actually ranks fifth in ERA in the NL, but are now without closer Fransisco Rodriguez. They have no real closer right now with Manny Acosta, Hisanori Takahashi, and Bobby Parnell all getting save opportunities since Rodriguez's incident. Takahashi and Parnell have had good seasons so far, as has left-hander Pedro Feliciano. The rest of the Mets have been questionable at best or have had limited success over short spans. We all know Manny Acosta is not really a 2.73 ERA type pitcher and his 3.94 FIP assures us of that.
The Mets seem to be a somewhat defeated team but with a few ex-Braves and the hopes of playing the spoiler role, the Mets will likely play the Braves tough this series. Niese, Misch, Pelfrey, and Santana are all decent-to-good pitchers who often give the Mets a chance to win, but their terrible offense should lead to good performances from the Braves starters. I expect the Braves to take three-of-four, with the home advantage being a big difference in the outcome of the series.