The long road trip on the Eastern side of the U.S. is finally coming to a close for Atlanta, and so far, it's gone a lot better than that ill-fated West Coast trip did (then again, eclipsing the results of that trip would have been easy). Atlanta won the series in Pittsburgh and split the 4-game series in Cincinnati, but now they'll have to deal with a perennial thorn in their sides: The New York Mets.
What's new with the Mets since we saw them in July? Well for starters, they've been pretty average since taking 3 out of 4 from the Braves in their last series at Citi Field. The Mets ended that series in 4th place with a 42-50 W-L record, and they'll be going into this one in 4th place with a 61-70 W-L record...so basically, nothing's changed. Even though they're only in 4th because of the Marlins actually being a decent team this year instead of being awful like everyone figured they'd be, the Mets record-wise are pretty much where everyone pegged them to be back in March.
Of course, the first name that comes to mind when you think of the Mets is David Wright, and he has been scuff-a-ling this season, and it's been mostly due to injuries. He's been dealing with a shoulder ailment for most of the season, and he was forced out of Sunday's game due to a neck injury. The result of this injury-plagued season for David Wright has been one of his worst seasons on record, as he is currently hitting .266/.324/.368 with only 97 wRC+ and 8 HRs. That's good for 1.7 fWAR and he's played 123 games! However, the guy loves hitting against the Braves, so if he plays, he should still be taken seriously.
Other guys who should be taken very seriously: Juan Lagares and his defense (currently at 29 DRS and 18.9 UZR for the season), Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson. Those are the guys who have been doing most of the damage with the bats for this season. Travis d'Arnaud is another guy to watch out for, as he's finally beginning to get the hang of being a major league hitter. Other than that, the offense isn't exactly the best in the world. As a team, they've hit .237/.306/.359 with 89 wRC+. The Braves haven't done much better this season, so at no point in this series would I expect a slugfest to break out.
As far as the pitching matchups are concerned, the Braves will probably have the upper-hand for this series. For tonight's game, the Braves will be tangling with Dillon Gee. This is another member of the Mets who has been scuffling through this season, especially so as of late. Over his past 7 starts, Gee has a 5.71 ERA and a 5.38 FIP. So naturally, one of Gee's best performances of the season came against the Braves when he went 7 and only allowed 1 ER, and struck out 4. Hopefully we don't see a repeat of that, tonight.
In Game 2, the Braves will run into Zack Wheeler for a 4th time this season. The Braves have won two of the 3 contests against the Mets which Wheeler started, and the guy who will be happiest to see Wheeler again is Jason Heyward. Heyward is currently 6-9 with a homer and 2 doubles against Wheeler this season. Conversely, Justin Upton is 0-9 against Wheeler this season. I doubt that this trend will continue.
Thursday night's starter for New York will be Jon Niese. Niese hasn't had the best of years, as evidenced by the fact that he hasn't had a scoreless outing since May. Even though Atlanta is used to facing off against Zack Wheeler this season, they won't be as familiar with the 2014 version of Niese, as this will be the first time they've encountered Niese since April. The Braves won that one 6-0, but Niese actually held the Braves to only 1 run before he exited. It was only when the much-maligned Mets bullpen entered that the Braves were able to break that game open. If the hot Braves offense shows up, they may not have to wait until the bullpen enters to break it open. However, if the anemic Braves offense shows up, then this could be an opportunity for Niese to contribute another positive outing for the Mets.
As usual, the season series between the Braves and Mets has been a tight one, with the Braves holding on to a narrow 7-6 advantage. However, if the Braves plan on staying near the top of the Wild Card race and at least keeping the Nationals within earshot, then they absolutely have to start taking care of business against the Mets. They've proven that they can do so (as evidenced by a sweep earlier this season), but the Mets have also shown the tendency to bedevil the Braves, as they did when they took 3 out of 4 in the last series.
Again, this is a series that the Braves should win, and considering how the standings are looking right now, they basically have to.
Tuesday, August 26th
Alex Wood (ATL): 9-9, 3.05 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 8.58 K/9, 1.7 fWAR
Dillon Gee (NYM): 4-6, 3.84 ERA, 4.62 FIP, 1.25 HR/9, -0.2 fWAR
Wednesday, August 27th
Julio Teheran (ATL): 12-9, 2.96 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 8.3 HR/FB%, 2.6 fWAR
Zack Wheeler (NYM): 9-8, 3.48 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 3.83 BB/9, 1.6 fWAR
Thursday, August 28th
Mike Minor (ATL): Past 3 starts: 2.53 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 8.02 K/9
Jon Niese (NYM): 7-9, 3.47 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 10.2% K-BB%, 0.8 fWAR
All Games At 7:10 PM EST