From this point on I’ll be focusing on two kinds of blogs. The first and most important will be the upcoming series preview. I’ve never done a series preview before; I toiled with game previews while our buddy Elliot was away last summer. So stick with me, if I’m brutal at the start, just think of me as the Mets middle of the order. (Getting off to a slow start)
The second obviously is when something drives me so insanely off the wall that I decided I’d rather skip my lunch break than let it go unsaid. I’m pretty good at that.
So here we go!
The Braves roll into New York City looking to flex their NL East muscles, and show their former rival that they are a team to be worried about, and not just to focus their attention on the Philadelphia Phillies box scores. This is a Braves team that is starting to get a lot of bandwagon fans in the media with this being Bobby Cox’s final season as manager.
The Braves are that sexy playoff pick. The pick where you feel like you should pick them, just in case they exceed most realistic expectations and prove you to be a genius.
The Mets on the other hand are coming off their first series win of the young 2010 season, and are starting to look not like a threat yet, but at least like a competitive club that won’t roll over for you.
This series will not see Johan Santana on the hill, which to me when you take that into consideration, plus everything I mentioned above, makes this a huge test for this 2010 Mets team. (As if every series wasn’t a test huh?)
If Atlanta comes out of this series with at least 2 wins, it will be clear to me that they are indeed the 2nd best team in the NL East, and a legitimate Wild Card contender. If the Mets can take the series, it tells me this team is not going to settle for just getting by without Beltran in the lineup.
Also, let’s not forget about the shuffle of the lineup. With Reyes batting third, and Jerry mixing the 4-5-6-7 hitters around, who knows what to expect. Something has to get Wright, Bay and Francoeur going and hopefully it’s just moving them out of their comfort zone.
Game 1 should be predicted as the most tough to get through for the Mets fan. John Maine takes the hill, and honestly Johnny…show me something. This is it. If Carlos Zambrano could get tossed to the bullpen, then so can you. Do I have a solution for your spot if that happens? Not at all. However, Maine has to give a quality start tonight. I’ve already started to write Maine off as being “done” and if I don’t see at least 6 innings and less than 4 earned runs tonight, it’ll seal the deal for me.
Hitter to watch for: You know Jason Heyward is looking to have a big game in New York in front of this media market. However, I’m going to go with our old friend Chipper Jones. Jones is a lifetime .455 hitter against Maine with 1HR and 3RBI in 11 AB’s.
The Braves will call on Kenshin Kawakami, who in all honesty might have just as much on the line in this start as his counterpart in Maine. Both are off to sluggish starts.
Most of the Mets who have faced Kawakami have actually faired well against him. Granted, the Mets have made guys like Tom Gorzelanny look like Walter Johnson lately, but if history tells us anything it’s that they see the ball very well off Kawakami.
If there was a game where you look at in this series and say “this is where the guys snap out of it,” you have to pick this one.
Jason Bay has had 2 AB’s versus Kawakami, and he’s hitting 1.000 with a HR and 2 RBI. David Wright is a career .400 hitter against him and Francoeur is a career .375 hitter against his former teammate.
Run Line: The Run line is 8.5 for this game; I’m going to take the OVER
Moneyline: The Mets are a +120 tonight, I’m taking them to win tonight, even though Kawakami is 9-3 in his last 12 starts on grass and the Mets are 17-37 in their last 54 games as an underdog. Ouch.
Game 2 is a 1:10 pm start and gives us Mets fans another look at Jon Niese who is 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA, but it feels like he’s been better than that doesn’t it?
Niese will go up against Jair Jurrjens who is 0-1 with a 6.06 ERA. Jurrjens absolutely owns the Mets in his career posting a 6-1 record with a 2.44 ERA. I’m not too confident with this game because I feel like Niese has to get bumped around at some point right? Also, Jurrjens is too good of a pitcher to not get his season on track against a team he has such good numbers against.
Game 3 begins at 8:05 pm and if all goes as I predict (when does that ever happen?) will be a true rubber game with Mike Pelfrey taking the ball for the Mets, and Tommy Hanson doing the same for the Braves. Pelfrey has never really had great numbers against the Braves, posting a dismal 2-6 record with a 6.09 ERA. Hanson is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA against the Mets.
If this does turn out to be a rubber game, this is the game where we’ll know if Pelfrey has just been facing bad teams, or if he really is coming back to the point where you feel comfortable with him pitching behind Santana.
I think there is some merit to the fact there is a new culture with this team growing in the clubhouse, and it takes time for teams to gel. The time to get to know one another is over though. Everybody was talking about the road trip being the test, or the Cubs series yada yada.
This is the real litmus test. The next 9 games are against 3 of the 5 best NL teams in my opinion, and coming out above .500 without Carlos Beltran will tell me that this team is at least a factor in the NL. If they falter and come out of the next 9 games with no more than 4 wins, then I expect changes in the dugout to occur before the May 7th series at home.