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Braves look to tighten NL East gap in finale vs. Mets

Sportsnaut
Jul 8, 2022; Cumberland, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) pitches against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Two veterans will be on the mound Wednesday when the Atlanta Braves host the New York Mets in the rubber game of the three-game series between the two top teams in the National League East.

The Mets won the first game 4-1 on Monday behind Max Scherzer, and the Braves took the second game by the same score on Tuesday thanks to a pair of two-run homers from Matt Olson and Adam Duvall.

The starters for the third game will be Atlanta’s Charlie Morton (5-3, 4.21 ERA) and New York’s Chris Bassitt (6-6, 3.94). The Mets currently have a 1 1/2-game lead over the Braves after they were up by 10 1/2 games at the start of June.

“It’s like a playoff game,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Everything is magnified, and it’s going to take what we did (Tuesday) because it’s hard to bunch hits against a team like this. That’s who we are. We hit homers.”

New York first baseman Pete Alonso said, “We just want to focus on executing our game plan.”

Morton is on a four-game winning streak. His last loss came on May 3 in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets, when he gave up five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings. In his latest start, on Friday against the Washington Nationals, he pitched seven innings and gave up two runs on four hits and three walks, with seven strikeouts, to earn the win.

“He’s getting into a rhythm as much as anything,” Snitker said.

Morton has made 15 career appearances, 14 starts, against the Mets, going 3-4 with a 3.49 ERA. His last win over New York came July 27, 2021, when he worked five innings and allowed three runs in a 12-5 Atlanta victory.

Bassitt took a loss in his most recent start, on Friday against the Miami Marlins. He allowed two runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking none.

Bassitt has made only one career appearance against Atlanta. He took the loss on May 2 after allowing three runs on six hits and one walk, with eight strikeouts, in a seven-inning effort.

The Mets should be back to full strength in the bullpen on Wednesday. Edwin Diaz, who leads the team with 19 saves, and Adam Ottavino, who has allowed just three earned runs in his last 25 games, were given Tuesday off. Diaz had worked three consecutive games. Both should be available for the series finale.

“It’s been awesome to watch him blossom and make guys look like Little Leaguers out there,” Alonso said about Diaz. “He’s been slicing and dicing guys up.”

Diaz, who has 17 saves and a 1.31 career ERA against Atlanta, struck out the side to save Monday’s game. Overall this year, he has 73 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings, the most in the majors among relievers. He became the first Mets reliever to record two or more strikeouts in eight consecutive appearances.

Diaz has surrendered only one run in his past 18 games, fanning 39 and walking three in that stretch. He has not allowed a run in his past 10 appearances covering nine innings.

Atlanta closer Kenley Jansen is eligible to come off the injured list on Wednesday. Jansen, who is 4-0 with a 3.58 ERA and 20 saves in 24 opportunities, has been sidelined since late June because of an irregular heartbeat.

–Field Level Media