7:10 PM EST – Line: Mets -140, Over/Under: 7.5
Division Rivals heading in very different directions battle in the Big Apple, as the Atlanta Braves travel to Citi Field to face off against the New York Mets in the first leg of a Three-Game Series. You’d be hard-pressed to find many teams hotter heading into the All-Star Break than the Braves (48-34, 1st in NL East), who despite last night’s 7-9 loss at the Chicago Cubs have won Eighteen out of their last Twenty-Five Games. After returning to the Playoffs last year following a four-year hiatus, Brian Snitker’s charges appear destined for a second consecutive National League East Crown, owning a Six-Game Lead over their closest competition, the Philadelphia Phillies. The strength of this club thus far has been their young Lineup, which has really come together in 2019, ranking Second in the National League in Runs Scored (438), On-Base Percentage (.337), Slugging Percentage (.460), and OPS (.797), and Third in Hits (739) and Home Runs (126). Six different players have tagged at least a Dozen Homers, led by All-Star First Baseman, Freddie Freeman (80 G, .313 BA, 99 H, 60 R, 22 2B, 21 HR, 61 RBI, 41 BB, 62 K). After leading the Majors in 2018 in both Hits (191) and Doubles (44), the 29-Year Old is on pace to match his previous career-high in Doubles, while already nearly reaching last year’s Home Run total of Twenty-Three. On the other hand the Pitching Staff, particularly the Rotation, needed a bit of a boost, which is why Management added the Dallas Keuchel (2 GS, 1-1, 5.06 ERA, 10.2 IP, 16 H, 6 ER, 3 HR, 3 BB, 5 K, 1.781 WHIP) to the mix, with the Free Agent finally becoming eligible to sign with a team a few weeks ago. If the former Cy Young can regain the form that helped him lead the Houston Astros to the 2017 World Series, then Atlanta will be getting quite a shot in the arm (no pun intended). Getting the nod tonight for the Braves is Mike Soroka (8-1, 2.07 ERA, 13 GS, 78.1 IP, 57 H, 1 ER, 3 HR, 19 BB, 63 K, 0.970 WHIP), who was removed prematurely from his latest outing after experiencing pain in his Right Forearm after being hit by a pitch at the Plate, which just so happens to be the arm he delivers the ball with. While Snitker has openly proclaimed the malady to be nothing serious, he has gone out of his way to be cautious with his young Pitcher, who in just his second season in the Majors, has already established himself as a potential cornerstone of the Rotation. The former First Round Pick of the 2015 Amateur Draft has been excellent for Atlanta in 2019, beginning the campaign by yielding no more than One Run in each of his first Six Starts, which is something that hasn’t been done by a 21-Year Old Rookie in the Live Ball Era since Fernando Valenzeula did it back in 1980. With an unusual delivery, the Canadian has been very effective, having gone unbeaten in Twelve consecutive Starts. Before being pulled for cautionary reasons after just 2.0 Innings of last Sunday’s eventual 4-3 Victory over the Washington Nationals, Soroka was busy battling these same New York Mets, relinquishing Three Earned Runs on Six Hits over as many Innings of a comfortable 12-3 rout. If he keeps this up into the second half of the season, then you can bet that he’ll garner plenty of attention in regards to National League Rookie of the Year honors.
Meanwhile, traveling in the opposite direction are the Mets (37-45, 4th in NL East), who after last night’s 3-6 Loss at the Phillies finds themselves barreling closer and closer to the cellar in the Division. Mickey Callaway’s charges have dropped Twelve out of their past Seventeen Games, including each of their last five after suffering a disappointing Four-Game Sweep at the hands of Philadelphia. Of course, when it rains, it pours in the Big Apple when you in the midst of a rough stretch, and that’s precisely what’s happening to the Metropolitans, who have attracted quite a bit of attention from the Media due to the turmoil going on behind the scenes between Ownership, Management, and the aforementioned Callaway. Needless to say, we highly doubt that the Skipper would like to answer continuous questions in regards to the team’s General Manager calling down from the Luxury Boxes demanding a Pitcher be removed from action. However, that’s been the reality in what is quickly degenerating into a lost season for New York. It’s a shame, because their have been bright spots in 2019, particularly in the form of Rookie First Baseman, Pete Alonso (80 G, .281 BA, 82 H, 52 R, 18 2B, 27 HR, 61 RBI, 33 BB< 88 K), who has for all intents and purposes carried this lagging Offense. The 2016 Second Round Pick has made headlines this season, and is currently on pace to set a Franchise Record with Fifty-Four Home Runs. Granted, he’s struck out a good bit (88 K), but that’s to be expected from someone in their first year in the Majors. Heading to the mound for the Mets tonight will be Jacob deGrom (4-6, 3.25 ERA, 16 GS, 97.0 IP, 86 H, 35 H, 12 HR, 20 BB, 121 K, 1.093 WHIP), the reigning National League Cy Young, who along with just about every other positive on the Roster has been overshadowed by the club’s recent struggles and turmoil. 2018 was indeed a magical campaign for the Righthander, who despite putting together a middling 10-9 record in Thirty-Two Starts, led the Majors with a startling 1.70 ERA. 2019 has seen the Two-Time All-Star and 2014 National League Rookie of the Year dial things back a bit, though given the circumstances that have afflicted New York, you’d have to hand it to the 31-Year Old for continuing to make Quality Start after Quality Start. With fellow ace Noah Syndergaard (5-4, 4.55 ERA, 15 GS, 95.0 IP, 91 H, 48 ER, 11 HR, 24 BB, 93 K, 1.211 WHIP) languishing on the 10-Day Disabled List due to a sore Hamstring, deGrom remains the constant in the Rotation, pacing the group in many categories, including ERA (3.25), Strikeouts (121), WHIP (1.093), Hits per Nine Innings (8.0), Walks per Nine Innings (1.9), Strikeouts per Nine Innings (11.2), and Strikeout/Walk Ratio (6.05). It really is a shame that the Mets have largely failed in providing him with consistent Run Support, or for that matter a consistent Relief System; the veteran has seen just Two Decisions over his last Seven Starts, with One Win to show for it, despite yielding no more than Two Earned Runs in any of those contests, all the while producing a ridiculous 54/6 K/BB Ratio (9.00). When we last saw him, it was more of the same for deGrom, who was excellent in an eventual 3-5 Loss at the Chicago Cubs, yielding a pair of Earned Runs on Eight Hits over the course of Six Innings, with Nine Strikeouts and Zero Walks, before leaving with a 3-2 lead. In typical Mets’ fashion, the visiting Bullpen collapsed in the Eighth Inning, serving up a Three-Run Home Run that effectively ended the affair. Sadly, if things continue to regress at this rate, New York figures to be big sellers at the Trade Deadline, which means that this guy will likely have even less help around him.