The surging Braves are looking to bounce back from a ridiculous 8-3 loss to baseball’s worst, the Houston Astros on Monday. Before the loss however, the Braves experienced a nice 6-game winning streak (tied for their longest streak of the season). Not so conveniently for the Braves, their last loss before the Houston catastrophe came against the Mets, who they open up against tonight in Turner Field. For most teams, a nice 9-game home stretch would sound like sweet relief after a grueling road trip. However, this may not be the case for the Braves, as they have 4 more wins in 7 more games on the road. This produces a higher winning percentage for the Braves on the road than at home (only by .001, but you know us sports guys, every point counts). Regardless, as the Braves chase the Phillies, every game matters, especially inner-division games. This is also an important series for the Mets, as they are straddling the .500 mark (just 2 games south). Reaching .500 would be an accomplishment compared to the struggles of the Mets’ teams the last few years. Either way, any time these two teams play, anything can happen.
Making things more interesting, the season series between the two teams is tied at 3-3. This comes though, with the Mets winning the last two. The Braves have not beaten the Mets yet by more than 4 runs, and each team has shut out the other exactly once.
Braves Keys to Success
1) Chipper Jones – Throughout this icon’s illustrious career, he has raked against Mets pitching (he even named one of his kids Shea). This is further proven by his .319 AVG and 46 home runs against the Mets. This being said, Chip is coming off an 0-for-4 performance against the Mets in their last meeting, in which he also recorded a strikeout. In a season in which the Braves have had their fair share of offensive woes, they need guys like Chipper to produce early and often. Maybe Chipper’s career 4-for-8 with a homer and two doubles against Game-1 starter Jonathon Niese can get him started off in the right direction.
2) Tim Hudson – Since Huddy’s 9-inning shutout of the Brew-Crew way back on May 4th, he has not recorded two consecutive quality starts. During this streak (or lack thereof) Hudson is a whopping 2-4. What’s worse for the Braves’ co-ace is that in his last start against the Mets, he only went 4 innings and gave up 5 runs. The Braves need Hudson to change his luck and be more consistent if they plan to win game 2.
3) Dan Uggla – At some point this Braves “slugger” has got to turn things around. For about a month, every Braves fan in America has predicted that the next series is “the one” for Uggla. Uggla’s numbers are less than impressive against the Mets (in just under 100 games, he’s hitting .228). Like Chipper, Uggla is also coming off of a game in which he had no hits and struck out once. The one promising piece of information for Uggla is that he has been incredibly successful against Game-1 starter Jonathon Niese (in the last 5 years, he’s hitting .462). It just takes one game to turn it around, and Braves fans are hoping that this is what Uggla will need to start being the player who we’ve all seen he can be.
What to Watch For
1) The return of Jason Heyward – The AJC’s Dave O’Brien reported that Heyward could return to the big-league club as soon as Wednesday. This would make sense considering that AAA-Gwinnett is off that day. His return is not a guarantee, but it is possible. If the kid can get back into the lineup, then some of the offensive woes for the Braves could be alleviated.
2) Jose Reyes – Since some disparaging comments from Mets majority owner Fred Wilpon, Jose has been ON FIRE. His .293 average in 113 games against the Braves in his career was already a good stat, but his .444 average and 12 extra base hits in the 16 games preceding last night (raising his average to a league leading .342) is absolutely outstanding. If the Braves want to win, they’re going to have to keep this guy at bay.
3) Jair Jurrjens – Since coming off the DL, Jurrjens has put up Cy Young numbers (1.82 ERA, averaging over 7 innings per start). Look for the kid to keep putting up good numbers in his start on Tuesday night.
Tuesday – Jon Niese (NYM) 5-5, 3.51 ERA vs. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) 8-2, 1.82 ERA
Wednesday – Dillon Gee (NYM) 7-0, 3.05 ERA vs. Tim Hudson (ATL) 5-5, 4.06 ERA
Thursday – R.A. Dickey (NYM) 3-7, 3.98 ERA vs. Mike Minor (ATL) 0-2, 4.50 ERA