Series Preview: New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves

The Ol’ Rivalry renews once more this weekend in Atlanta, as the Mets charge into the southern town to begin the 2nd half and kick off an important stretch against divisional opponents. Mets have lost the majority of their games all-time to the Braves, 323-390 (and a tie). They have fared better this year, however, having won 4 and lost 2. They stand a half-game behind the Braves entering Friday’s match-up. Terry Collins and his scrappy team look to keep the good baseball up, while traveling to even newer heights, as we begin the most important half of the season.

How’it’s going for ‘em:

The Braves have been one of the most inconsistent winning teams in baseball.  They started out 10 over after 42 games, with a 1 1/2 game 1st place lead, but have since lost 23 of 43, falling 4 games behind the Nationals. Still, they entered the break winning 4 in a row, and carry that winning streak into their 2nd half match-up against the Mets.

The hitting:

Brian McCann, while only hitting .238, homered once in each of those 4 wins. Chipper Jones is his usual disgustingly excellent self when he’s on the field, hitting .318 with 6 home runs and 33 RBI in 173 at-bats. Martin Prado is solid in a left field/3rd base role, hitting .311 with 5 home runs, 37 RBI and 49 runs scored. Dan Uggla has the power and the run production, but as usual, the average is low, batting .221 with 12 home runs, 45 RBI and 53 runs scored. Michael Bourn continues to provide impressive speed at the top of their lineup, hitting .311 with 7 home runs, 32 RBI, 60 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. Jason Heyward is having a bounce-back junior year after a miserable 2011, hitting .272 with 14 home runs, 41 RBI, 45 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. Freddie Freeman, though his average lower, is having a fine 2nd year, hitting .264 with 11 home runs, 49 RBI and 47 runs scored.

The Pitching:

The starting rotation took a big blow when Brandon Beachy went down on June 16. He had been 5-5 with a 2.00 ERA, 29 walks, 68 strikeouts, and an 0.96 WHIP. Behind Beachy are the 2 TH’s: Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson, two solid pieces of any rotation. Hudson is 7-4 with a 3.56 ERA, 55 strikeouts, 24 walks and an 1.19 WHIP. Hanson is 10-5 with a 3.71 ERA, 93 strikeouts, 38 walks and a 1.31 WHIP. The back end has been extremely disappointing if you’re a Braves fan, with former 1st round prospect Mike Minor layin’ out a 5-6 record with a 5.97 ERA, 78 strikeouts, 40 walks and a 1.42 WHIP. Jair Jurrjens was so bad in April, he was sent down. Brought back up on June 22, he has gotten the win in 3 of his last 4 starts. Randall Delgado hasn’t faired much better in place of injured and ineffective starters, sporting a 4-9 record with a 4.52 ERA, 69 K’s, 41 strikeouts, 41 walks and a 1.45 WHIP. The Braves will most likely attempt to increase their starting pitching depth at the deadline.

The bullpen is 5th in the league in ERA at 3.54, but that number is very much brought down by All-Star Craig Kimbrel‘s 1.36 ERA. They have given up 30 home runs, a big concern going into the 2nd half for Braves fans.

Probable pitching match-ups:

Chris Young (2-2, 3.41 ERA) vs. Tim Hudson (7-4, 3.56 ERA)

Hudson hasn’t been as lights out this year as he has in the past, though he shut down the hapless Phillies his last time out. He has generally done well against the Mets’ bats, although Ruben Tejada was 6 for 11 against him last year. If the Mets are in their usual position of getting runners into scoring position with 2 out, the league is hitting .281 against Hudson in those situations. Chris Young must continue to keep the ball up, where he has the most success, and Terry must be weary of leaving Young out for the 7th inning.

R.A. Dickey (12-1, 2.40 ERA) vs. Tommy Hanson (10-5, 3.71 ERA)

Tommy had kept his ERA to around the 3.50′s for most of the season, but has given up at least 3 runs in each of his last 4 starts to drive his ERA to the 3.70′s. Mets must be aggressive with Hanson, as the league fairs well early in the count against him. RA Dickey must continue to master the knuckleball more and more each start, and we must sit back and enjoy the awesomeness incarnate.

Johan Santana (6-5, 3.24 ERA) vs. Ben Sheets (–, —)

For the 1st time since July 19, 2010 against Boston, Ben Sheets will toe a Major League rubber. Signed by the Braves to a minor league contract on July 1, Sheets has only made 2 starts in double-A in which he has gone 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in 10.2 innings. Johan Santana must get back on track after a shaky start against the Cubs. Johan rolled over his ankle during that start, and a good performance would go a long way to easing tension over his post-no-hitter struggles.

Who’s hot:

Brain McCann, who is 7 for 16 with 11 RBI in his last 4 games. Chipper Jones is an unastonishing 9 for 15. Craig Kimbrel has allowed only 1 run in his last 10 appearances.

For the Mets, Daniel Murphy is on fire, with 16 hits in his last 35 at bats. Ruben Tejada continues to work the count and collect hits, going 16 for his last 40. RA Dickey, while lackluster in 2 of his last 3, has only given up 14 earned runs in his last 75.2 innings of work.

Who’s not:

Dan Uggla is a putrid 3-33 for the Braves.

For the Mets, Andres Torre is 6-34, Kirk Nieuwenhuis is 4-29 and Lucas Duda is 7-37. All need to turn it around to increase the Mets chances of competing.

After a disappointing ending to the 1st half, the rested Mets aim to show the National League East in these 1st two series that they came to compete in the 2nd half….LET’S. GO. METS.

Thanks for reading! You can read Sam Maxwell’s personal Mets Blog here.

Topics: Andres Torres, Ben Sheets, Braves, Brian McCann, Converted Mets Fan, Dan Uggla, Daniel Murphy, Freddie Freeman, Jair Jurrjens, Jason Heyward, Johan Santana, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda, Mets, Mike Minor, RA Dickey, Ruben Tejada, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson

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