We’ve been looking ahead to the penultimate series of the 2022 regular season for months. Somehow we just knew it would all come down to three games in Atlanta, our final series with the Braves, to decide the National League East division. And here we sit clinging to a precarious one-game lead entering this pivotal three-game series.
Yes, both teams have secured a spot in the playoffs, but in the current format, the division leader will have a much better shot of getting to the World Series as they’ll get a first round bye and skip the wild card round for a chance to rest their players and position their rotation to their advantage.
However it shakes out, it’s important to look at the Mets vs. Braves matchup as they could well meet again in the League Championship Series to decide the National League Pennant. Here’s how the division rivals match up.
Even without Mike Soroka (remember him?) who’s been out with a twice-ruptured Achilles tendon, the Braves still have an excellent rotation. Max Fried and Kyle Wright are down ballot Cy Young candidates, Charlie Morton is a reliable veteran, and rookie Spencer Strider is a strikeout machine. Ian Anderson has been disappointing in his third season and veteran addition Jake Odorizzi hasn’t proven to be much of an upgrade on the backend. Those top three line up to face the Mets this weekend and Strider (oblique strain) should be back in time for the playoffs. It’s a formidable starting staff, but only one of these teams boasts arguably the two best veteran pitchers in baseball atop their rotation.
Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are not only dominant and healthy heading into this series, but both are battle tested. Chris Bassitt has been a terrific number three for the Mets and the righty with the old school delivery should be up to the task of facing this tough Braves lineup. Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker are both being considered for the fourth starter role in the playoffs, but neither will see a rotation turn in this pivotal series.
The Mets have had more success against right-handed pitchers this season while the righty heavy Braves lineup has actually fared significantly better against lefties. This further tips the scales in favor of the Mets.
Edwin Diaz has been hands down the best closer in baseball this year and his reliable dominance has been a key part of the Mets 2022 success. However, there’s a lot more to a bullpen than the closer, especially come playoff time. In games when a Mets starter goes seven innings, Adam Ottavino and Seth Lugo have been reliable bridges to Diaz. However, in close games where the starter gets knocked out early or games that go into extra innings, the middle relievers have been mostly unreliable. Trevor May and Mychal Givens have been too hittable, Drew Smith coughs up too many home runs, and Joely Rodriguez too many walks. Perhaps moving Carrasco or Walker to the pen along with one or both of spot starters Tylor Megill and David Peterson will fortify this weak group, but that remains to be seen.
The Braves have a deep and effective bullpen that features two experienced closers in Kenley Janson and Raisel Iglesias, as well as three effective lefties – A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek and Dylan Lee, and the reliable veteran and former Met Collin McHugh.
The Mets lineup is dynamic in that it includes a balance of lefties, righties and switch hitters, guys who can get on base, speed and power. However, the only big power threat is Pete Alonso, while the Braves lineup is loaded with thumpers. The Mets will likely finish with three 20+ home run hitters; the Braves with a staggering seven. The flip side is that the Mets strike out less often than the Braves, who boast three hitters with 160+ whiffs.
Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte do a great job of setting the table for Francisco Lindor and Alonso, and Jeff McNeil, Mark Canha and a resurgent Eduardo Escobar give the bottom of the order some pop. However, the Mets have really struggled to get consistent offense out of the catcher and DH positions. The Braves may not feature two MVP candidates like the Mets, but their lineup has a lot more power and depth.
Both teams sport good defensive squads. The Mets are fifth in the National League in both errors made and fielding percentage, while the Braves are second in both categories. The Mets have turned more double plays and thrown out a higher percentage of base stealers. Comparing position by position and considering range factor, errors, fielding percentage, assists, etc. the Mets have the leg up at more positions, but it’s close.
The Braves would have a superior bench but thanks to injuries to Ozzie Albies and Adam Duvall, the bench is a bit watered down with reserves like Orlando Arcia getting thrust into starting roles. The Braves have two fine hitting catchers in William Contreras and our old friend Travis d’Arnaud so they can DH one, but then that moves Marcell Ozuna to left field where he is far from a Gold Glover. The other option is to DH Ozuna and play the light hitting Robbie Grossman or struggling Eddie Rosario in left field. Arcia and Vaughn Grissom will cover second base until Met killer Albies returns.
Brian Snitker has been the Braves manager since 2016 and the former player and long-time organizational coach led them to a World Series win last season. Snitker is a good manager with a steady hand, if a hot head at times. He is supported by some familiar names among his coaches in Walt Weiss, Rick Kranitz, Kevin Seitzer, Eric Young and Ron Washington.
Buck Showalter may be the skipper the Mets needed all these years. The veteran manager has the respect of his players and the support of his front office. This team has been motivated and drama free under his leadership. Showalter gets support from Glenn Sherlock, Eric Chavez, Jeremy Hefner, Wayne Kirby, Joey Cora and others.
Matty Mets prediction: Mets take two out of three in Atlanta and hold on to the division, however the Braves could well knock out the Dodgers en route to a rematch in October. Let’s f&%$#@ go Mets!