How the tables have turned in the National League East! And then maybe turn another half dozen times. The New York Mets lost their lead atop the division on Friday only to regain it again on Saturday. It’s the Atlanta Braves who took it away and then gave it right back.
These two competitive teams have a few things in common but also one major difference. Edwin Diaz remains one of the great closers in the game. Atlanta’s ninth-inning man, Kenley Jansen, has been much different for them.
If you’ve been watching the Braves closely, you will have noticed Jansen serving up losses to the Braves. Right now, it’s an Achilles heel for them.
NL East race between the Mets and Braves could come down to closer reliability
Who knew a guy who pitches to three batters on average a night could be so valuable? For the Mets, it has been crucial to have someone like Diaz they could lean on without question. Lately, for the Braves, not knowing what they can expect out of Jansen has been a major issue.
The Braves can turn to Raisel Iglesias. Acquiring at the trade deadline from the Los Angeles Angels, he’d be the logical choice to take over. Of course, he has had his own struggles. Those came while with the Angels. Since joining the Braves, he has been at his best.
As a whole, the bullpens aren’t quite the same. Braves relievers are quite a bit better than what the Mets have. It’s only those final outs where Atlanta has a major concern.
The Mets are winning regularly with faith in Diaz, a lot of trust in Adam Ottavino, and lots of hope and prayers whenever anyone else steps on the rubber. The Mets bullpen has been better than average this season but the problem is how often pitchers like Seth Lugo or Trevor May have thrown up stinkers.
All bets are off in the postseason. We’ll probably see Jacob deGrom start a game and Max Scherzer close it out with a two inning save if he has to. The Braves could always turn to someone else. Given how much the Mets have struggled against lefties this year regardless of their handedness at the plate, A.J. Minter would be a fine option to go up against New York.
In these final games of the season, the agony of defeat stings a lot more. Nobody needs their closer blowing games. The Mets would definitely like to clinch the NL East with Diaz picking up a save. They’ll settle for watching on TV as Jansen or any other Braves reliever gives up a walk-off home run.