After a 3-4 homestand against the Cubs and Reds, the Braves take their show on the road into the Big Apple, where they’re due for a weekend set with the Mets. The Braves have won just one of their six contests against these particular division rivals so far, getting swept by them at home in April and winning a single game in New York in May.
The Mets currently have the fourth-best record in the National League are would grab the first Lightning Round (Wild Card) spot were the season to end today. They’ve been about average offensively and defensively, with Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker leading the charge with wRC+s of 149 and 130, respectively.
Of course, the real story with the Amazins is their pitching, which can currently make the claim of being the best in baseball: their 3.21 FIP is tops (well, bottoms) in the majors (even below that of the Cubs and Dodgers), and their staff has the second-best ERA and xFIP as well. The bullpen has been very solid to date, which helps bolster these numbers, with Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Jerry Blevins all contributing an assortment of quality innings through the season’s first 10 weeks or so.
John Gant will be making his second major league start for the Braves, this time against the team that drafted him in the 21st round in 2011. Gant lasted just four-and-a-third against the powerhouse Cubs lineup in his first rotation turn, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and four walks while striking out five. Gant has been yo-yo-ed relentlessly during his first full season in the Atlanta system, and given that he’s generally found a way to succeed at every level as he’s moved up the minor league ranks, there’s the hope that giving him some measure of consistency will improve his overall performance. His major league ERA of 5.63 seems a bit ghastly, but he’s gotten burned by sequencing (64.9% strand rate) and balls in play (.386 BABIP-against), so he should be at least a reasonable option (rather than a poor one) to eat innings once those things straighten out.
Gant will be opposed by Matt Harvey, whose ERA is also running about a run above his FIP (and about half a run over his xFIP). Harvey has had a really up-and-down season so far, with an adjective stream of his 2016 starts looking something like:
mediocre - mediocre - mediocre - meh - good - good - blah - good - unlucky - terrible - terrible - great - great - great
Which is basically another way of saying that he’s been really inconsistent, but might have finally turned a corner. He’s allowed just two runs and three walks in his last three starts (including zero homers, after giving up eight in 10 prior starts) while striking out 17 batters. Given his earlier struggles, he’s no longer on pace to put up another All-Star-esque season, but he’s still an above average starter that will probably give the depleted Atlanta lineup fits.
This will be Harvey’s third start against the Braves already this season. In April at home he pitched five innings of two-run ball while working with a sizable lead to garner a victory; in May, he took a loss at Turner Field while three runs opposite Matt Wisler’s eight innings of one-hit ball.
The Braves have not won three consecutive games since mid-April, though tonight’s game is at least an opportunity for them to attempt to achieve this apparently-rare feat.
Meaningless tiny sample stats:
- In 22 PAs since being traded to the Mets, Kelly Johnson is hitting .400/.455/.600 and has already matched his 2016 Atlanta home run total (1). Of course, the .467 BABIP probably has everything to do with it.
- Mallex Smith has more hits than outs against Harvey from their past meetings this season, including one of his homers. Meanwhile, AJ Pierzynski is 5-for-6 against him, but Freddie Freeman hasn’t been a fan: 2-for-12, though both of those hits were doubles.
- A lesson in small samples and their effect on partial-season hitting stats: prior to the series with the Reds, Freddie Freeman had a 99 wRC+ (.242/.336/.414). Coming into this series, he now has a 121 wRC+ (.265/.355/.478). Another hot series and he’ll probably be back to his usual stomping grounds of a 130ish wRC+.
Game Date/Time: Friday, June 17, 7:10 p.m. ET
Location: Citi Field
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network, 680 AM/93.7 FM