Justin Verlander takes the mound in his most important start for the Mets yet

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays v New York Mets / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

Ever since Steve Cohen acquired the New York Mets, the team has been one of the biggest spenders in free agency. This includes a huge splash last offseason, bringing in ace Justin Verlander on a two-year, $86 million contract. Verlander's AAV at $43 million per year is the second highest ever, only trailing Max Scherzer.

Since returning on May 4 after missing the start of the 2023 MLB season with a low-grade teres muscle sprain, Verlander has had up and down games. He shows glimpses of the reigning AL Cy Young winner, and has let two or less runs in four of his starts.

But, there are also games where Verlander has not pitched well. Against the Tampa Bay Rays at Citi Field and the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, Verlander gave up six earned runs. Going into tonight, he has pitched 36.0 innings, with a 4.25 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 30 strikeouts.

If Verlander can pitch like the reigning Cy Young winner against the Atlanta Braves, it would go miles for a struggling Mets team.

Tonight, the Mets need the ace in Justin Verlander that they paid for

New York, after getting to 30-27, is now on a five game losing streak, with two losses against the Atlanta Braves, who lead the NL East. The Mets led in both games against the Braves and received decent pitching from Carlos Carrasco and Max Scherzer, but both wore out towards the end and Atlanta took advantage.

The Mets are now 7.5 games behind the Braves with 100 games left in the season, and Atlanta continues to win while the Mets continue to lose. Getting swept by the Braves would mean the Mets have a steep hill to climb to win the NL East, or even make the playoffs.

This is where Verlander needs to step up. The Mets, who were supposed to have one of the best starting pitching staffs in the league, have struggled to put together constant strings of quality starts. The staff, headlined by Verlander, has to be the driving force behind a turnaround.

It doesn't get easier for the Mets after Atlanta. They go to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates, who have won six of their last 10, and then come home for a Subway Series matchup against the Yankees. Those games are never easy.

The Mets need this game against the Braves, and it starts with Verlander. He's shown his flashes in a Mets uniform so far. Tonight might be his hardest start of the season, in a hostile environment against a red-hot rival. But, that is what the 40-year-old lives for.

If the Mets want any hope of saving their season, it starts with Verlander tonight.