Tuesday is the start of a critical three-game series between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves. Saying that two months ago would’ve been hilarious, but with the resurgence of the Mets, they are a real threat to the Braves in the National League East.
At the trade deadline, the Mets held on to Noah Syndergaard as well as Zack Wheeler and traded for Marcus Stroman. Everyone, myself included, was bamboozled, and since then, they have been the best story in baseball. They currently sit a game out of the last Wild Card spot and seven out of the division lead. This three-game set could go a long way for New York to make one of the greatest comebacks in modern memory.
For the Mets, the aforementioned Zack Wheeler will take the hill for his 23rd start of 2019. So far this season, he is 9-6 with a 4.20 earned run average. The former top-10 pick has been absolutely spectacular since the Mets decided not to trade him at the deadline. In his two starts since, he has pitched a combined 15 innings and has not allowed a single run while striking out 12 and walking only one.
This season has been a good one for Wheeler even when the Mets were struggling. One of the catalysts for that is that he has paired his magnificent fastball with three other pitches that are above average. His changeup, slider, and curveball are all above average, according to Fangraphs pitch value chart. That has turned into a higher K/9 and lower BB/9 than his career averages.
For the Braves, fellow former top-10 pick Max Fried will take the mound for his 25th game and 23rd start of the season. This has been a breakout season for Fried, who has seen bits of action in two previous MLB seasons but didn’t pitch more than 34 innings in either of them. He is currently 13-4 with a 4.11 earned run average. He is on a four-start winning streak dating back to July 15 and has had a 3.61 ERA in that span.
One problem that Fried has to fix ASAP is his penchant for giving up home runs. His HR/FB is an egregious 19.5%. That simply won’t fly in the majors. Fried has started against the Mets two other times this season and is 1-0, giving up five runs in 11 combined innings and striking out 11.
Batters To Watch
Jeff McNeil is so underrated in this league that it hurts. He plays literally all over the diamond and is hitting over .320 for the second straight season. He has 15 home runs and 54 runs batted in this season with a 150 wRC+. In August he has a hit in nine of the Mets’ 11 games.
The National League has so many insane hitters this season, like Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, that somehow we all forget about Freddie Freeman. One of the best first basemen in the game is slashing .309/.402/.567 with 29 home runs and 95 RBI. He has had a hit in six of his last seven games, including three home runs.
The Mets are rolling, and Wheeler is pretty split-neutral regarding home and away. I’m taking the Mets and hoping this Cinderella story doesn’t strike midnight.