Series Preview: New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves

Although Mets fans are watching another month of September games that are “meaningless,” there have been a couple of occasions this week where we’ve been able to smile. No, it wasn’t when Keith Hernandez shaved off his ‘stache yesterday (although he does look a lot younger), but it was watching David Wright become the Mets’ all-time hits leader Wednesday night, while R.A. Dickey became the team’s first 20-game winner in 22 years yesterday afternoon. They just took three of four from the Pirates, and at 72-84, they’re 5.5 games ahead of the Marlins with six games to go, meaning they will most likely not end up in last place in the NL East.

How the opposition is doing:

Unlike last season, the Braves have already wrapped up a Wild Card spot, and while they’re 3.5 games out of first with 6 games to play, Fredi Gonzalez has his club still reaching for that NL East title, as they’ve won five in a row, and eight of their last ten to bring their 2012 record to 91-65.

Offensively, Martin Prado leads the way as the team’s only .300 hitter, coming in at a .306 mark. Chipper Jones has dipped a bit since the last time these two teams met, as he’s now second on the squad with a .295 average, but does have the highest OBP (.381). Michael Bourn helps this offense get going, as he leads the team in runs scored (93) and stolen bases (38). Jason Heyward leads the home run chase with 27 bombs, but Freddie Freeman (22), and Brian McCann (20) are also in the 20-HR club, with Dan Uggla(19) on the fringe of joining the group. Freeman has a comfortable lead in the RBI department, with 93 runs batted in.

September 25, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones (10) celebrates after being driven in on a first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) celebrates after a walk off two-run home run in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Turner Field. The Braves won 4-3 to clinch a NL wildcard spot. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Tim Hudson leads the pitching staff with 16 wins, while Tommy Hanson (13) and Mike Minor (10) are also in double digits. Craig Kimbrel leads all pitchers with a sparkling 1.04 ERA to go with his 40 saves, but Kris Medlen‘s 1.64 mark leads the starting staff. Minor has a one innings edge on Hanson for the innings pitched lead (173 to 172), while Hanson has everyone beat with 155 strikeouts. What’s amazing is that Kimbrel’s 111 whiffs are fourth on the team, while the top three pitchers have all thrown at least double the innings he has.

Probable pitching match-ups:

Jonathon Niese (12-9, 3.49 ERA) vs. Tim Hudson (16-6, 3.61 ERA)

Niese is hoping to continue his strong finish to what has been a career year for the young left-hander. He has already eclipsed his previous personal bests when it comes to wins and innings pitched in a season. He will be looking for his 8th straight quality start, as he will be taking the mound trying to secure his sixth win since the calendar turned to August. Niese needs to continue pitching well in late/close situations, where he has a 2.70 ERA. On the other hand, Hudson is using this as possibly his last start before the Braves enter the playoffs. It will be key for him to use his off-speed pitches in the right situations, while closing out innings better. With no outs, he has a sparkling 1.95 ERA, but it goes up to 3.84 with one out, and up to 5.23 when there are two outs.

Chris Young (4-8, 4.21 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (10-10, 4.27 ERA)

One of the question marks would be Chris Young’s durability if he had a full-time spot in the rotation. Since he’s joined the staff in June, he’s made every scheduled start, while throwing the most innings (109 IP) since 2008 with the Padres. This start will be his fifth of the month, the same number of starts he’s made in each month since he’s returned. He wants to close things out on a high note, especially since September has been his best month, statistically speaking (1-1, 2.66 ERA, 1.27 WHIP). Mike Minor has shown his growth and progression from the first half (5-6, 5.97 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) to the second half (5-4, 2.33 ERA, 0.90 WHIP), and he’ll be looking forward to pitching at Turner Field, where he’s only allowed 8 of the 26 homers he’s seen fly out when he’s been on the mound this year.

Jenrry Mejia (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Kris Medlen (9-1, 1.64 ERA)

He threw a lot of pitches at the beginning of his last appearance (70 pitches through 3IP), but Mejia settled down to retire seven of the final eight Pirate hitters he faced to earn his first MLB victory. Despite having much more success as a starter than reliever in Triple-A this season, it’s been the complete opposite in limited time with the Mets. As a starter, he has a 1-1 record 5.63 ERA and 2.13 WHIP in two starts, while he’s 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in two relief appearances. Meanwhile, Medlen has just been insane this year, as the Braves have won his 22 starts in a row, tying an MLB record. He’s had success all year long, but in his 11 second half starts, he’s 8-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in 77.2 innings pitched.

The Mets are hoping to finish their season series against the Braves on a high note, but they’ve already lost the 2012 match-up, coming in at 5-10, including a 1-5 mark on the road. Historically, the Amazins have struggled at Turner Field in general, sporting a 139-218 road record. So, here’s to hoping they can continue their winning ways as they try to finish the year strong… Let’s go Mets!

Topics: Chipper Jones, David Wright, Freddie Freeman, Kris Medlen, Mets Series Preview, New York Mets, R.A. Dickey

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