BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
It doesn’t matter where in Atlanta the Mets play the Atlanta Braves. You can have all the new players, managers, administration and ownership with the team. They always struggle against them in Atlanta whether it’s Fulton-County Stadium, Turner Field or Truist Park.
We can add this weekend to a long list of infamies of the Mets’ will being taken away by the Braves at Atlanta.
The Braves won the first two games of the NL East showdown against the Mets. They took a 5-2 victory Friday night, and they took a 4-2 victory Saturday night. From what we saw in the last two games, the Braves are in a good position to sweep the Mets Sunday night.
Here’s what it comes down to in this series so far: The Braves stars came up big, and the Mets stars came up small.
The Braves received contributions by Austin Riley, Matt Olson and Dansby Swanson, who combined to hit five home runs in this series. The Mets did not receive contributions by Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.
The Mets have been in first place for 170 days. There have been only three days that both teams were tied for first place. The Braves are in first place for the second time this season after taking the first two games of this weekend’s series.
The Braves likely clinched the division after this weekend. They are humming right along, and it’s hard to believe they are going to lose Sunday night and their series against the Miami Marlins.
We can go talk about the Mets’ failures to beat up awful teams in September. This is more than fair, but it’s hard to say they earned the right to win the division when the Braves outplayed, outworked and outhit them this weekend. The Mets failed to step up, and that’s why they are likely playing in the best-of-three wild-card round this coming weekend.
deGrom failed to set the tone in the opener of the series by giving up three home runs, including back-to-back home runs to Riley and Olson in the second inning after a 1-0 lead in that inning. The Mets never recovered from that. They never created a big inning. The best they mustered was the ninth inning with the bases loaded, yet Francisco Alvarez and Tyler Naquin struck out to end the threat.
Saturday night was more of the same. Scherzer offered nothing by giving up a couple of home runs and not protecting a 1-0 and 2-1 lead. The Braves tied the game at 1 in the fourth inning when Riley hit a double to start the inning and then Olson hit an RBI single to score Riley. When the Mets took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning on Jeff McNeil’s RBI single that scored Alonso, Scherzer gave it right back by giving up a two-run home run to Swanson, giving the Braves a 3-2 lead. Olson homered off Scherzer in the sixth inning to extend the Braves’ lead to 4-2.
After thinking Scherzer would be the guy to step up after deGrom’s flop, he was no better than his fellow ace on this night. It was his worst start of the season. It was not even close to his usual brilliant self.
The Mets liked their chances to beat the Braves because of their aces. Their aces failed them, and it was the story of this series.
Let’s not leave others off the hook. Lindor and Alonso failed to make an impact in the series so far. Where were the big hits by them? Where were the home runs? How come either of them failed to provide an answer.
Only McNeil played like the best player in the series for the Mets. That’s not enough in a series of this magnitude.
Now, the Mets hope Chris Bassitt can give some dignity and pride for the Amazins Sunday night. They can only hope to salvage one and avoid being swept. This could give them the season series win Sunday night. Both teams are even at 9 right now.
Still, the damage was done. The Braves made their point. They got the series. They are in first place. Even if the Mets win Sunday night, it’s a tie for first place. What’s the guarantee the Braves are losing a game with the Miami Marlins? What’s the guarantee the Mets will sweep the Washington Nationals?
Sure, there could be a chance the Mets and Braves finish in a tie for first place. The Mets could break the tie with a season-series win Sunday night.
But it would feel cheap if the Mets win the division based on a tiebreaker. It would have been much better if the Mets did their job and at least played well in the first two games of this series. Winning the division would be well-earned by winning at Atlanta after failing in that city for most of their history.
Instead, this weekend series eerily reminded Mets fans of the final series of the Mets’ ’98 season where hopes came to die in Atlanta.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6