Series Preview: Braves v. Mets

An article by posted on April 5, 2012

I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down? It’s Opening Day!

Whether you are a Pirates, Astros, Yankees, or Mets fan, Opening Day has (or should have) a ton of emotions tied into it. It’s the start of a new year for many, time to move on from the never ending off-season banter, and focus on the actual game that is played on the field.

Let the prospects develop, simmer, and ferment in the minor leagues, it’s time to start talking about the guys wearing the blue and orange at Citi Field!

The season opens at home in front of what I hope is a supportive crowd. It should be a beautiful weekend for weather, and so you can’t really ask for a more perfect setting to open the season.

Bring in the Atlanta Braves. Last year, the Braves suffered an epic collapse at the hands of the NL East. Atlanta, who appeared to be a lock for the post-season finished their year with 15 straight games against division rivals. They won 5 of them, and watched as the St. Louis Cardinals took care of business.

The Mets had a forgettable year in so many different ways. At some point, the injury bug has to leave New York and head somewhere else right?

The idea of a full year with Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, and Johan Santana gives a Mets fan hope that perhaps this team can be better than the low expectations. Yet, the spring of Jason Bay, Mike Pelfrey and the loss of Jose Reyes brings fear and pessimism for things to come.

Both teams are looking for a chance to re-charge their fan base out of the gate. For Atlanta, the only way to erase the memory of 2011 quickly is by getting off to a good start.  For the Mets, the only way to not have the boo-birds take over Citi Field is to play hard, and give us all something to cheer for.

Last year the Mets won 5 of their first 18 games. Can’t start the year like that.

Thursday 1:10 pm: Tommy Hanson v. Johan Santana

Hanson looks to take his spot as Atlanta’s ace, while Santana looks to excite Mets fans and prove he is healthy.

Historically, Wright & Davis struggle against Hanson while Thole and Bay actually hit very well against him. Could we see a Jason Bay break out on Opening Day?

I’m calling it now, why not right? Like Wright hitting a HR in the Citi Field 2010 opener, Bay will have a much needed moment on Opening Day this year. (If I’m wrong, well, then everybody else is right!)

Fun fact, this is the 1st time since 2009 that everybody who should be an Opening Day starter for the Mets is actually in the lineup (or expected to be).

Saturday 1:10 pm: Jair Jurrjens v. R.A. Dickey

Jurrjens is coming off of a knee injury and hasn’t looked too good this spring. He’s also a hot topic in trade discussions, so you have to wonder if the writing is on the wall for his days in Atlanta being numbered? He is 8-4 with an ERA under 3 against the Mets for his career.

Dickey did not have a great April last year, losing 3 of his 4 starts. I think Dickey is a great #2 here because he will respond well to whatever happens on Opening Day. Either he will look to put the team on his back after a loss, or he will be fired up to build on any momentum that has started.

The guy Dickey has to be careful around is Freddie Freeman. Freeman has hit Dickey well, while Dickey has handled the other Atlanta bats with a fair amount of success.

Daniel Murphy is the guy Jurrjens will try to avoid in the Mets lineup. Jurrjens has seen the Mets enough to know how guys like Wright will approach him, but when it comes to Murphy, Murphy’s got him beat.

Sunday 1:10pm: Mike Minor v. Jon Niese

Minor is a highly touted arm for the Braves, and this is a great matchup to see. In 16 starts at AAA last year, Minor struck out 99, walked 27 and won only 4 games with an ERA of 3.13.

In 15 big league starts, Minor struck out 77 batters, and walked 30 en route to a 5-3 record with a 4.14 ERA.

For Niese, you know the story. 11-11 with a 4.40 ERA. He’s getting (or got) a new contract, so the Mets are putting a lot of faith in him. But, he’s going to have to start pitching big like the contract he’s getting.

This is a tricky team for Niese to face. Bourn, Heyward, Ross, Freeman, and Uggla all hit above .300 against Niese with a minimum 9 plate appearances. However, all of those appearances came before his nose job, so you have to like Niese’s odds now.

A true test right out of the gate for Niese.

Series Summary:

On September 18th, Lucas Duda hit a homerun off of Craig Kimbrel which put 1 nail in the coffin of Atlanta’s September. You know that Atlanta, and Kimbrel have not forgotten that.

You also know, that when Santana takes the hill, he is the face of the franchise. The team feeds off of him, and so Opening Day should have some real juice to it.

I think this is a perfect team for the Mets to open up against. I’ve predicted Atlanta to have a letdown season (according to many expectations), and hopefully the Mets can exploit some of their weaknesses and get the season off on the right foot.

OVER/UNDER RUNS: The line tonight on Opening Day is 7, and we’ll set the series Over/Under at 19.5, to which I will select the over.

METS POTS: For the Mets player of the series, I’m going with Jason Bay. It’s a risky call, and it’s partially a wish.

KEEP YOUR EYES ON: To me, Freddie Freeman is the guy across the dugout that I’d keep an eye on. For us Mets fans, we are in love with Ike Davis, stemming from what we saw in 2010 .264/.351/19HR/71RBI. Freeman’s first full year was .282/.346/.21HR/76RBI, so if expectations are high for Ike, they should be mirrored for Freeman.

I’LL BE DRINKING A: Blue Point Double IPA, and a glass of Cabernet. Why the mix? Well, for Opening Day, we will DVR it and avoid all communication with the outside world until the work day ends. I’ll likely be exhausted, which will make Saturday’s Blue Point taste much better than Thursday’s.  Sunday, is of course Easter Sunday for many fans out there, and we will be traveling to eat with family. Therefore, wine will be had by most throughout the day.

Enjoy the weekend, and Let’s Go Mets!

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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