The Atlanta Braves must do better this time around against the New York Mets or risk losing any legitimate chance to catch them in the National League East. The two teams — each with 70-plus wins — open a four-game series on Monday in Atlanta.
A week ago, the Mets won four-of-five against the Braves to expand their division lead. The Braves followed the poor showing against the Mets by winning six in a row and now trail by 5 1/2 games.
New York has won eight of 12 games against Atlanta this season. The teams won’t meet again until the penultimate series of the year.
Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said, “They’re all tough from here on out. Every game is going to be big, every series is going to be big. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, they’re all big right now, which is where you want to be. That’s why we’ve worked so hard from February until now.”
The starting pitchers for the series opener will be New York’s Carlos Carrasco (13-4, 3.76 ERA) against Atlanta rookie Spencer Strider (6-4, 3.11).
Carrasco beat Cincinnati in his last start on Aug. 9 after allowing two runs over 6 2/3 innings, both runs coming on a homer to Jake Fraley. He struck out nine and walked only one.
Over his last seven starts, Carrasco is 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 42 2/3 innings, with 42 strikeouts and 11 walks.
Since the All-Star Game, he has a 1.78 ERA over 25 1/3 innings, three of those runs coming against Atlanta on Aug. 4, when he pitched six innings and fanned six. In four career appearances, three starts, against Atlanta, Carrasco is 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA.
“Carlos has been a good major league pitcher for a long time,” said New York manager Buck Showalter. “He hasn’t been this healthy in a while. It was one of those things we hoped could happen this year. We knew it could be a shot in the arm.”
The Mets just won two of three against the Phillies, the last two by shutouts, and have 16 shutouts this season.
“It’s hard to score on us,” New York pitcher Chris Bassitt said. “That’s kind of how we’re built.”
Strider was roughed up by the Mets in his last start on Aug. 7. Strider was knocked out after 2 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on six hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
There was fear the Braves would be without right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr., who left the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader in the seventh inning with soreness in his right knee and did not start on Sunday.
But Snitker said afterward that Acuna could have started Sunday’s game, a 3-1 win over the host Miami Marlins, and that he insisted on taking the field after pinch-hitting in the ninth inning.
Atlanta is also expected to get catcher Travis d’Arnaud back on Monday. He has been out since injuring his lower right leg in the second game of the doubleheader against the Mets on Aug. 6.
The Mets may be without third baseman Luis Guillorme. He left Sunday’s game with groin tightness after sliding home to score a run. He was scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.
–Field Level Media