The Atlanta Braves will begin their biggest series of the season on Monday when they open a five-game set against the New York Mets with another doubleheader. The Braves will come into the series with a 48-50 record, good for third place in the NL East standings, trailing the Mets by five games and the Phillies by one.
Atlanta began the road trip by splitting a four-game series in Philadelphia. They scored a win in the opener Thursday but were held in check by Zack Wheeler Friday. They exploded for 15 runs in Saturday’s win and had a chance to win the series outright but Aaron Nola outdueled Touki Toussaint in a 2-1 loss.
This upcoming series will take the Braves right up to the Trade Deadline, which is Friday at 4 p.m. ET. Atlanta acquired outfielder Joc Pederson coming out of the All-Star Break and also added catcher Stephen Vogt. Both have performed fine, but they are going to need more help if they hope to stay in the race over the final two months of the season. Just about everything that could go wrong has for the Braves in 2021, but they have managed to hang around within striking distance, even if their odds shrink more and more with every series and week that they fail to make a run. It remains to be seen if they would consider selling should the series in New York go sideways. Alex Anthopoulos told reporters the night that Pederson was acquired that the focus was on adding to the roster. It is unknown what would need to happen to sway that line of thinking.
The Braves did receive some good news on the injury front this week, but none that will help them in the upcoming series. Travis d’Arnaud is on the trip with the club and has been working out during pregame. Brian Snitker said Saturday that d’Arnaud might be ready to head out on a rehab assignment at the end of the road trip. Huascar Ynoa threw live BP earlier this week and was scheduled to begin a rehab stint in Florida Tuesday. Ian Anderson played catch back in Atlanta and said that his shoulder was feeling good. It will take some time for Anderson to ramp back up but that process could begin soon.
Freddie Freeman went 0-for-4 Sunday but has done his best to keep the Braves’ offense afloat in July. After a slow start to the season, Freeman entered play Sunday hitting .426/.518/.735 with a 227 wRC+. He has six homers this month and has struck out just 10 times.
The Braves aren’t going to get any sympathy from the Mets as far as injuries go. They have dealt with multiple to several key players and their rotation has been hit hard of late. New York is 5-5 over its last 10 games but just took two of three from the Blue Jays over the weekend. They acquired lefty Rich Hill from the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this week, but he started Sunday and won’t be in the plans for the upcoming series.
Another pitcher who won’t be in the mix is ace Jacob deGrom, who is currently on the injured list due to forearm tightness. deGrom threw off the mound Sunday for the first time since going on the IL. New York is planning for deGrom to make a rehab start and are hopeful that he will be ready to rejoin the rotation sometime in early August. David Peterson, who was already on the injured list with an oblique injury, broke his foot while walking this week and will need surgery. He was transferred to the 60-day Injured List.
So, it is still a fluid situation for New York’s rotation and they have only announced starters for three of the five upcoming games against the Braves.
Monday, July 26, 5:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Kyle Muller (5 G, 4 GS, 28.4 K%, 13.6 BB%, 3.20 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 4.49 xFIP, 77 ERA-)
Kyle Muller will get the call in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader for Atlanta. Muller started Game 1 of this past Wednesday’s doubleheader against the San Diego Padres. He ran up a high pitch count but did a good job of limiting the damage allowing two hits, three walks and one run over four innings. Muller made his first career start against the Mets in a doubleheader at Citi Field opposite deGrom back on June 21, allowing one run on zero hits with a 3/2 K/BB ratio. Muller’s gotten really fortunate with just a 4.5 percent HR/FB rate so far, so hopefully that keeps up long enough for the Braves to grab a win in this game.
Marcus Stroman (21 GS, 111.2 IP, 20.6 K%, 5.8 BB%, 2.58 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 3.57 xFIP, 67 ERA-)
Marcus Stroman will start Game 1 of the doubleheader for New York and is coming off one of his best starts of the season. Stroman allowed just one hit and struck out seven over eight shutout innings in his last start against the Reds. He has allowed three earned runs or less in 12 straight starts. He faced the Braves back on June 22 but exited the game after just one inning with a left hip injury.
Monday, July 26, TBD (Bally Sports South)
Bryse Wilson (7 GS, 30.2 IP, 15.2 K%, 8.0 BB%, 6.46 ERA, 5.84 FIP, 5.13 xFIP, 156 ERA-)
Bryse Wilson will get the call again for the Braves in the second game of Monday’s twinbill. This will be Wilson’s second straight start for Atlanta in a doubleheader and he will be looking for a much better performance. He put the Braves in an early hole and lasted just two innings while allowing four hits, four walks and five runs. Atlanta scored four in the bottom half of the second but the game was suspended due to rain in the fifth inning. That was Wilson’s first appearance in the majors for the Braves since June 20. The Braves are going to need a much better effort this time around, as this is a series where they can’t just toss games away.
The Mets haven’t announced their plans for this game. A bullpen game including Nick Tropeano, whom the Mets claimed off waivers in June, is a possibility, as Tropeano has been pitching longer stints in the minors and is on the Mets’ shuttle when they need a fresh arm.
Tuesday, July 27, 7:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Charlie Morton (20 GS, 111.0 IP, 28.0 K%, 8.6 BB%, 3.65 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 3.45 xFIP, 88 ERA-)
Charlie Morton will make his second start of the current road trip on Tuesday. Morton held the Phillies in check in Thursday’s series opener, allowing four hits and two runs while striking out eight over six innings. He has been tough on the Mets in three starts, allowing a combined eight hits and four runs in 19 innings to go along with 26 strikeouts and just three walks.
The Mets don’t have too many obvious options here barring a trade, but Anthony Banda, another journeyman who’s started in the minors this year is a possibility. Banda pitched an inning on Saturday, but hasn’t been used much overall, though he may not be particularly stretched out at this point.
Wednesday, July 28, 7:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Max Fried (16 GS, 84.2 IP, 23.3 K%, 8.2 BB%, 4.46 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 3.91 xFIP, 108 ERA-)
Max Fried will be looking to bounce back on Wednesday after a lackluster performance in Philadelphia. Fried wasn’t sharp and had to battle his way through his last outing against the Phillies where he allowed six hits, four walks and four runs in just five innings. He has faced the Mets twice this season and has allowed eight hits and three runs in 11 innings.
Tylor Megill (6 GS, 30.0 IP, 27.0 K%, 8.2 BB%, 2.10 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 3.78 xFIP, 54 ERA-)
The Mets will go with Tylor Megill Wednesday and he will be hoping to continue a lights-out July. Megill has allowed just two earned runs the entire month and is coming off back-to-back scoreless outings. He has allowed just nine hits and one walk over his last 12 innings. Megill faced the Braves in his Major League debut on June 23 and allowed three hits and two runs in 4 1/3 innings. He faced them again six days later and allowed five hits and three runs over five innings at Truist Park. Megill was a fringy prospect but he’s delivered in spades for the Mets through his first six career starts and is helping them stay float as they weather yet another crazy storm of injuries.
Thursday, July 29, 12:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Drew Smyly (17 GS, 88.0 IP, 20.4 K%, 8.7 BB%, 4.30 ERA, 5.08 FIP, 4.90 xFIP, 104 ERA-)
The Braves are hopeful that Drew Smyly will be ready to start in the series finale Thursday. Smyly tossed four scoreless innings Saturday against the Phillies but exited due to pain in his knee. He was checked out in Philadelphia Sunday and Brian Snitker said that there was no structural damage and that he is day-to-day. They will wait and see how he feels following his side session this week but are hopeful that he will be able to make the start. After a rough April, Smyly has had better results of late and has held the opposition to three runs or less in nine straight starts. He’s generally not doing anything too differently from earlier in the season, but the fly balls are staying in the yard, and that’s helping a ton.
Taijuan Walker (18 GS, 94.1 IP, 23.3 K%, 9.3 BB%, 3.43 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 4.23 xFIP, 89 ERA-)
New York will go with Taijuan Walker in the series finale. Walker will be looking to shake off two straight rough outings. Walker went to the All-Star Game but has struggled in two starts since . He was tagged for four hits, four walks and five earned runs in just a third of an inning against the Pirates in his first start of the second half. He wasn’t much better in his latest outing, allowing eight hits, including three homers, and six runs in four innings against the Blue Jays. Walker has faced Atlanta twice this season and has allowed just three hits over eight scoreless innings to go along with 10 strikeouts.