The Atlanta Braves (76-48) hit the road again starting tomorrow and travel to Citi Field to take on the New York Mets (57-66) in a two game mini-series. This will be the fifth series against each other, and in terms of divisional opponents, the New York Mets have fared best against the Braves, winning 7 of the 14 games. The Braves are 12-4 against the Washington Nationals, and 8-4 against both the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins.
Atlanta has been on a tremendous run lately, winning 13 of 16 games during the month of August, 19 of their last 22, and increasing their divisional lead to 15.5 games. With just 38 games left in the regular season, and only two series against teams above .500 (only one in the NL – St. Louis Cardinals), the Braves magic number is now at 24 and their divisional and playoff status pretty much a lock.
Nonetheless, even with such a huge divisional lead, and all cylinders clicking, every team wants to go down the September stretch with momentum on their side. In short, the more games you win when you have that kind of lead, the more you can ease back, relax a touch, and enjoy the view from the mountain. This is all of course barring major injuries, catastrophes, and a pretty much falling off the face of the earth. Playing a series against a team like the Mets that have battled us well this year, and after them a series against the always tough St. Louis Cardinals (which could be a good benchmark), the Braves will hope to show the kind of play that has kept them in 1st place in the NL East for 140 days.
Taking the mound for Atlanta in game one of the two game mini-set will be Brandon Beachy (2-0, 4.50 ERA). Beachy struggled mightily in his first two starts coming off a long stint on the DL due to Tommy John surgery, but has gotten gradually more controlled and improved considerably with each outing. The jury, in my opinion, is still out on how well Beachy will continue to pitch, but all signs are positive so far. When asked about how he’s doing since his return, Beachy said…
Each time I’ve felt like I’ve moved a little bit in the right direction. Coming off the first one, just to put some zeros on the board over the next few, now I feel like I’m starting to work on sequences, throwing pitches and breaking balls for strikes and things like that. Hopefully, I keep moving in that direction.
Facing Beachy in game one for the Mets will be Georgia native and rookie, Zack Wheeler. The Braves have faced Wheeler already twice this season, and Wheeler pitched pretty well in both outings. Like Beachy, Wheeler has improved, and in his last outing against the San Diego Padres, he totaled 12 strikeouts and walked just one batter while giving up just one run in six innings. The Braves will hope to slow down the surging righty.
Atlanta: Brandon Beachy (2-0, 4.50 ERA)
New York: Zack Wheeler (5-2, 3.43 ERA)
Atlanta: Alex Wood (2-2, 2.61 ERA)
New York: Jonathan Niese (5-6, 4.25 ERA)
Alex Wood has been a pleasant surprise for the Atlanta Braves. The organization and serious fans knew he was a good pitcher, but he has stepped it up and pitched beyond what anyone expected. His last four outings have been quality starts, where Wood has given up just 5 runs while striking out 26 and walking just 4 batters.
Newly called up second baseman Philip Gosselin has also played well. He got his first start with the big club on Sunday and got his first two career hits in that game. Gosselin took over for Tyler Pastornicky after an injury that tore Tyler’s ACL. Tyler has previously taken over for Dan Uggla who was reported to be sitting to have Lasik, but probably more likely because of a season long slump.