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Braves and Mets set to square off for first time in 2021

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Max Fried gets the start for the first game in the 2021 season series between two teams expected to battle for the NL East crown.

Toronto Blue Jays v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

After picking up a series in Milwaukee over the weekend, the Braves are returning home for a week-long homestand. They’ll be kicking off seven straight days of baseball in Cobb County with their first series of the season against the New York Mets.

While the Mets may getting off to the least-slow start of any team in the NL East, they’ve still got their fair share of problems. The big issue for the Mets right now (as it’s been at times over the years) is the fact that the injury bug has reared back and taken a big ol’ chomp out of their squad. Jacob deGrom is the biggest name that is currently on New York’s IL and he’s joined by a slew of other impact players as well:

Despite the slew of injuries, the Mets are over .500 mainly off of the strength of their pitching staff. We’re likely going to see this on display tonight when Taijuan Walker takes the mound for his eighth start of the season and his first start against the Braves since 2017. Over his past four starts, Walker has gone seven innings three times. In those three starts, he gave up a grand total of two runs with only one of them actually being an earned run. This nice little run that Walker is on was broken up by a pretty bad start on May 1 when the Phillies got him for seven hits, one walk and four runs. Other than that, Walker has been pitching pretty well since late-April and the Mets are going to be in need of another good performance from him if they’re going to have a shot tonight.

New York’s strength has, unfortunately, been Atlanta’s weakness so far. The Mets bullpen has especially been stronger than the Braves’ so far, and that might end up being the difference in more than one game during this three-game series. It’s a stark reversal of how things have been for the past couple of years, but it’s also reality and this point and we’ve all got to deal with it. The Braves are going to need some strong starts from their rotation this week and fortunately, they should have a good one going tonight in the form of Max Fried.

Fried has made a couple of starts since coming off of the IL and he’s looked more like himself in those two starts than he did at any point during the three starts he made before taking time off to heal up. He went five innings on May 5 and then followed that up with six good innings a week later. Obviously, we want to see that go up to seven innings and it would be especially lovely if he continued to only give up one run at the most. Either way, Max Fried is on a nice little run and it would be huge if this keeps up and he starts reminding everybody of how he looked during the 2020 campaign where he basically put the rotation on his back at times.

If there was ever a time for Max Fried to get some really good work done, it’s now. Again, the Mets will be heading into this series banged up and the lineup that they’re going to put out tonight is going to be, um, suboptimal to say the least. It’s basically going to be Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, and Dominic Smith against the world. Meanwhile, they’ll be taking on a Braves lineup that had no problem putting up runs a pretty good Brewers pitching staff over the weekend — and one that did so with Ronald Acuña Jr. only having one at-bat the entire weekend. Again, New York’s pitching staff has been doing some heavy lifting of their own, so this should be a pretty good matchup between these two.

There have rarely been boring Braves/Mets games over recent years. Most of the games have been pretty close and seemed to tilt on whichever team was the first to make a huge mistake. Hopefully tonight (and for the next two nights) it’s the Mets who are making mistakes and the Braves are the ones making an early statement of intent as they square off for the first time this season.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Monday, May 17th, 7:10 P.M. ET

Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, Georgia

TV: Bally Sports Southeast, ESPN

Streaming: MLB.tv

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