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Braves look to cap jubilant June with sweep of Mets

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A returning Noah Syndergaard potentially stands in their way.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what happens during the series finale between the Braves and Mets tonight, the Atlanta squad has had itself a month to remember. The worst they can do is a 20-8 mark, which would be the best calendar month for the franchise since a 20-7 run in August 2013. If they win, they’ll sweep the Mets en route to enjoying their best month since July 2004, when they went 20-6. A sweep would, however, be infinitely more fun, even if knocking the Mets around at Citi Field hasn’t exactly been a rarity for this franchise of late — you only have to go back to May of last season to find the Braves’ last road sweep of the Metropolitans.

Theoretically, a returning Noah Syndergaard stands in their way. However, given that this is the Mets, there’s a non-zero chance that something in the realm of the bizarre happens, and it’ll be some other hurler instead. Stay tuned. But, if it is Syndergaard, he’ll return to make his 16th start of the year after missing a couple of weeks with a hamstring issue, and the Braves might very well have their hands full.

The 26-year-old right-hander is in the midst of his worst professional season, but given his ridiculous career to date, that actually doesn’t mean much. True, he has an inflated 4.55 ERA (111 ERA-), but his peripherals are much more amenable to the tune of an 84 FIP- and 92 xFIP-. Now, both of those are career-worst marks, but Syndergaard’s already amassed 2.1 fWAR in just 95 frames, so even if he’s off his career five-win-per-200-innings pace, he’s still pitching well above average and has been a top-30 starter in baseball despite the “struggles.”

The Braves have missed Syndergaard so far this year, but aren’t exactly strangers to him overall, having faced him seven times across his 101 prior career starts. Last season, he managed two middling early-season starts against the Braves (six innings, three runs in each, with a combined 9/1 K/BB ratio) before shutting out a post-clinch Braves team for six frames in September in a game the Mets would even up dropping anyway by allowing seven uncontested runs once Syndergaard departed. Of his seven career starts against the Braves, two have been disasters (one in 2015, one in 2016), three have been dominant, and two have been middle-of-the-road. We’ll see what happens tonight, assuming Syndergaard does actually get activated off the Injured List and makes his scheduled start.

The Braves, meanwhile, will be sending Max Fried to make his second start against the Mets in three outings on Sunday night. Fried had really struggled to string together effective back-to-back outings since mid-May, but was finally able to do so over his last two starts. First, he held the Mets to two runs (no homers) with a 6/1 K/BB ratio over six frames on June 19, recording arguably one of his best starts on the year. He followed that up with another solid effort, holding the Cubs to the same two runs in six frames, this time with a much more unusual 8/5 K/BB ratio. It was the first time since mid-May that he managed back-to-back starts with an ERA or ERA estimator under 4.00 in both games. On the year, Fried has a pitching triple-slash of 89 ERA- / 91 FIP - / 81 xFIP- and has been one of the few bright spots in an Atlanta rotation that ranks 21st in the majors in fWAR and 20th in RA9-WAR despite the team’s gaudy overall record.

Fried has actually never managed a bad start against the Mets in three tries — he’s allowed two runs against them every time out. If that continues tonight, there’s a decent chance that this Braves offense, which ranks fourth in the bigs in hitting, will be able to secure a sweep, Syndergaard or no.

Game Info

Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets

Sunday, June 30, 2019

7:05 pm EDT

Citi Field, Flushing, NY

TV: ESPN (sigh)

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network

XM Radio: XM Streaming 841