Apart from Ronald Acuna, the best thing the 2021 Braves have had going for them is the Mets, who can pitch but who can’t hit. Not long ago, the Braves played four games in Citi Field and scored nine runs. That was enough to halve the series. The Mets, like most every other team, have had a slew of injuries. Even without Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco, their pitching has held up. Stat of the year: Jacob deGrom has yielded six runs, the same number as he has driven in. (He’s scheduled to start Thursday against the Braves. His ERA is 0.69.)
Shortstop Francisco Lindor, who signed a 10-year contract for $341 million, has seen his batting average rise above .220 only twice since April 17. His OPS is .666. (By way of contrast, Dansby Swanson’s is .732.) Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto have returned to health, which should help, but the Mets remain last in the majors in runs. They’re 26th in OPS; among teams ranked 20th or worse, Milwaukee is the only other club with a winning record.
We keep expecting Alex Anthopoulos to buy pitching for his Braves. (The trade deadline is July 30.) The Mets are looking for bats, though they can’t get through a week without a pitching scare – deGrom has at least one a fortnight; Marcus Stroman left after one inning against the Braves on June 22. The Mets are 40-34, having lost nine of their past 14 games. They wouldn’t be leading any another division, but the rest of the NL East has been so slow to ignite that Washington, which was 26-35 on June 12, has risen into second place.
Potential Braves trade targets for outfield, rotation and bullpen.
If the Braves can take two of three in this series, they might well be in first place by the All-Star break. After the Mets, the Braves face Miami, Pittsburgh and Miami again. The Mets go from here to a series at Yankee Stadium; then they face Milwaukee.
It’s tempting to suggest that these three games in Cobb County could change the Braves’ season from three months of slow-walking into an honest-to-goodness pennant chase. But this is your captain speaking, and honesty compels him to confess that he has made similar guesses since opening day, and nothing much has happened. The Braves have been just good enough to hang around. That’s not necessarily a compliment.