There were a lot of great things that came from the game last night between the Mets and division rival Atlanta Braves in Suntrust Park. It was a matchup featuring Steven Matz for the Mets, who was coming off a very solid performance but only 5 innings. Yesterday, they really need him to be able to go deeper into the game.
It was Kevin Gausman on the hill for the Braves. He is considered the ace of the staff since Mike Foltynewicz is currently on the shelf with an injury.
Jacob Degrom was even better than he normally is last night, and that’s a tough order. He entered the night with 30 straight starts allowing 3 runs or less, which is a new MLB record. Ironically, the last team to score 4 runs on Degrom were the Miami Marlins, almost a year ago to last night exactly.
We all know the problems the Mets lineups had last season giving Degrom run support. The Mets changed their tune last night, coming out of the gates with hot bats and keeping with that theme throughout the night.
Jason Vargas started game 2 of the 3 game set against the division rival Miami Marlins. 2 years ago, Jason Vargas was a 20 win pitcher. However, the second half of his 2017 campaign was not nearly as good as the first, so Sandy Alderson thought he got Vargas at a bargain price. After that season, Jason Vargas earned a 2-year deal worth $16 million dollars. Sadly, Vargas had a very up and down year last year for the Mets.
In spring training of 2018, Jason Vargas broke his non-pitching hand. His 2018 campaign wasn’t great out of the gate. He started the year on the DL (now IL) and when he came back it was not a pretty sight. Vargas’ first 12 starts in his second season with the Mets resulted in an 8.75 era with a 3.00 WHIP. A lot of fans wondered how the Mets could continue to allow this awful pitching display to take the mound every 5th day. But in Varags’ second half of the 2018 season, he somewhat rebounded, lowering his WHIP under 1.50 and dropping his era all the way down to a 2.45 in his last 8 starts. He made just 20 starts for the Mets and finished the year with a total of a 5.77 era and a respectable 1.41 WHIP.
Monday night the New York Mets opened up a three-game set in Miami, taking on the Marlins, a division rival. Mets left-hander Steven Matz, making his first start this season, got off to a rocky start. He allowed a two-run homer to second basemen, Starlin Castro, giving Miami an early 2-0 lead in the first.
But the Mets answered in the top half of the second, cutting the lead in half. Michael Conforto and Wilson Ramos started the inning with singles. Jeff McNeil battled and fouled off a number of pitches for lining a double down the right-field line that hit the chalk and scored Conforto.
Preview: The Braves are coming off of a 90-win season in which they won the NL East. With the return of All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman and young studs Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, as well as the addition of Josh Donaldson, the Braves have the opportunity to repeat. However, it won’t be easy as the Phillies and Mets have both improved this offseason and the Nationals still have one of the best pitching rotations in all of baseball. The Braves lineup returns basically everybody, it only improved with Josh Donaldson. Donaldson only played in 52 games last season, but he has proved over the years to be a threat at the plate. He will takeover third base this year in Atlanta and likely be hitting somewhere in the middle of the order. Also in the middle of the order for the Braves will be Freddie Freeman who put together an MVP-caliber season in 2018 with a .309 BA, 23 HRs, and 98 RBIs. Maybe the most exciting player returning to the Braves lineup is reigning NL ROY, Ronald Acuna Jr. Acuna batted .293 with 26 HRs and posted a .917 OPS in his rookie season, establishing himself as one of, if not the most exciting young player in baseball. Starting pitching isn’t Atlanta’s biggest strength, but they are an underrated group in my opinion. All four returning starters had an ERA of less than 4.00 last season. One of those four is Mike Foltynewicz who had a breakout season in 2018 posting a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts. Atlanta will be eager to see how former first round pick Touki Toussaint pitches this season. The 22 year old right-hander posted a 4.03 ERA last year in 29 IP. Toussaint could help solidify the starting rotation on a contending team. A fully healthy Arodys Vizcaino returns to the Braves bullpen on a one year deal. Vizcaino is the favorite to be the closer, but LHP A.J. Minter is also a closer candidate after a solid 2018 season in which he had 15 saves. Relievers Johnny Venters, Jesse Biddle, and Danny Winkler also return to the Braves bullpen after impressive 2018 seasons along with veteran Darren O’Day. The Braves may not be the NL East favorites anymore after the Phillies’ Bryce Harper acquisition, but they very well could crash the Philly bandwagon party and take the NL East pennant again.