Mets Continue to Widen NL East Lead Over the Braves By Rich Coutinho
When this 5-game series versus the World Champion Braves started this weekend many of the so-called baseball experts expected the Mets lead in the NL East to diminish but clearly the Mets had other ideas. They have won 3 of the first four games in this series meaning the Braves will leave town after Sunday’s finale further back in the NL East standings than when they arrived in New York. And by the way, they will be facing Jacob deGrom in that series finale.
This Met team spent the day illustrating that despite the home run acumen of the Braves, the Mets have an offense that does not necessarily need the long ball to win as they swept a twin bill using timely hitting while forcing high pitch counts from the starting pitchers of the Braves making them overuse the bullpen.
Meanwhile, the Mets starting pitchers–David Peterson and Max Scherzer- handled the high-octane Braves offense with massive efficiency. In the nightcap, Max Scherzer lowered his season ERA to 1.98 with seven scoreless innings giving up only 4 hits while striking out 11 hitters. They also showed they can score in a myriad of ways ranging from taking advantage of Brave mistakes to timely hitting or even a suicide squeeze from Tomas Nido who hits ninth in the order.
The defense also rose to the moment making great plays all day with the most notable coming from Luis Guillorme who nailed a runner from third base trying to score on a ground ball. This team hustles every single moment of every game as we saw in the third inning of the nightcap when a 3-run rally was fueled by a Pete Alonso breakup the double play slide that forced an errant throw.
The Mets are now a season high 30 games over 500 but more importantly own a 5.5 game lead in the NL East over the Braves (6 in the loss column) which is the largest lead they have owned in quite some time. I am sure the Braves are thinking that despite the fact they have been red-hot the past 2 months, they just cannot seem to catch the Mets. And after tomorrow there will only be seven head-to-head matchups left this season.
Over the first 11 games these teams have played this season the Mets have won 7 of them and that is without Jacob deGrom pitching one inning in those 11 games. That all changes on Sunday and should the Mets win, it would increase the lead in the NL East to 6.5 games and seven in the loss column. But whatever happens, the Mets have sent both the Braves and those so-called baseball experts a direct message.
And that message is the 2021 Mets are gone as this 2022 version of the Mets simply does not take no for an answer. They have game plans based on utilizing the strength of this team–pitching, defense and an offensive approach that takes advantage of everything from shifts to defensive mistakes and forcing opponents to use the bullpen earlier and more often than they would like to use relief pitching.
And that defines a championship caliber team.