The two teams you don’t want to play right now in baseball are the NY Yankees and the Atlanta Braves.
The first place Mets saw their Eastern Division lead shrink to a half game now over Atlanta, who beat them 3-2 last night. When the Braves announced that they would be starting 20-year old top prospect Mike Soroka instead of Sean Newcomb, it looked like a good chance for a series game one win. After all, the Mets were throwing their ace Noah Syndergaard who had to be feeling good about his team coming off of a 14-2 win on the west coast and a day off yesterday. The National Anthem was played, 5 different fans threw out the first pitch, the vendors were working the crowd, fans were cheering and everything seemed right at Citi Field.
But when the first four Braves reached base on hits and the Mets were down 3-0 before they could get an out. The first three hits given up by Syndergaard came off of 99, 97 and 99 mph fastballs, the fourth was on a 92 mph slider. The Braves saw eight batters come to the plate including starter Soroka. I honestly can not recall ever seeing a rookie making his first major league start, come to bat before he took the mound. Syndergaard was lucky to get a relatively easy second inning. The right hander negated a lead off single with a close out call at first, a pick-off at second and a routine ground out to short.
The Mets’ ace was noticeably off as he struggled with his command. It was obvious that he was trying hard to locate his pitches by slowing down from his normal 96,100 mph plus heaters as we saw his velocity drop in innings 3 and 4. He gave up an uncharacteristic 10 hits and only 5 strikeouts over 6 innings. Now we all know that a quality start in baseball is a statistic for a starting pitcher that is defined as tossing at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs. I have a difference of opinion on that one. How can it be called a “quality start” if you lose the game? Long, long ago when I pitched, if I gave up 3 runs to the first 4 batters in the first inning before I got an out and gave up 10 hits, my teammates would be throwing their gloves at me.
Syndergaard worked hard and settled down to keep it close enough to give his club a chance to have a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn’t meant to be. The way Soroka performed through 6 innings was amazing for a 20-year old making his major League debut. With that being said, there is something that the teams in the NL East need to be concerned with. What has to be looked at here is that this is not a rogue wave coming at the Eastern Division, but a tsunami. The Braves are for real and there are more young quality players on the way. The time table for the Braves rebuild was supposed to take a few more years. They are ahead of schedule and the Phillies are right behind. We all know that the Nationals have a powerful machine down there in Washington despite what seems to be some kind of dysfunctional clubhouse and I still believe they will be the team to beat in the NL East. Just be aware that this young club from the “Peach State” is only going to get better.
The Mets don’t want to have the Braves leave New York in first place. They need to jump out early in the next game vs Newcomb and then get another “real” quality start from Jacob deGrom and keep these young Braves in check now. Atlanta is feeling very confident at 3-1 vs the Mets in the early part of the season. If the Mets allow them to take this series, they may not be able to reach higher ground as this tsunami makes landfall.