Tuesday night’s loss to the upstart Baby Braves felt a lot like a game the Mets took too lightly.
With their ace on the hill against a 20-year-old making his Major League debut, the Mets' sense of urgency kicked in too late. New York's veteran lineup (excluding Yoenis Céspedes) missed the opportunity to beat up on Mike Soroka, a highly-touted young prospect, yes, but an inexperienced arm who made his fair share of mistakes that the Mets hitters failed to capitalize on (::looks pointedly over at Todd Frazier::).
It's just one loss, and hopefully the Mets bounce back to win the series. But this is not a Braves team that is just going to roll over and die, something that perhaps the Mets should have realized after coughing up a series to them in Atlanta, and hopefully they realize now.
Plenty of people, myself included, wrote them off in the preseason as a team still in the early part of a rebuild, but their 16-11 April showed that they may be further along than we thought. After Tuesday night’s game, the Braves are only a half game behind the Mets, and they look every bit the feisty young squad that will at the very least hang around Wild Card contention into late August.
Anchored by All-Star veteran Freddie Freeman, the Braves lineup currently leads the National League in Runs Scored and OPS, and they only called up number one prospect Ronald Acuña, Jr. at the end of April. Acuña has lived up to the hype so far, and has slashed .417/.481/.750. Aside from these two heavy hitters, Ozzie Albies has been great so far in his young career (.287/.348/.518 since debuting last season) and still has room for improvement in his game. Even Nick Markakis has had a bit of a renaissance in his age-34 season, and though he’s unlikely to sustain the power he’s shown so far, he’ll still get on base plenty.
Atlanta's bullpen is also full of young quality arms, something the Mets saw plenty of on Tuesday. Shane Carle has had a great start to the season, sporting a sub-one ERA, while striking out almost a batter an inning. Closer-in-waiting AJ Minter has also succeeded as the Braves high-leverage option and setup man, while -- despite his defense’s best efforts -- Arodys Vizcaino has managed to shut the door in the 9th inning.
Though their rotation has a few shaky areas, the deep bullpen and impressive offense has managed to keep the Braves competitive and interesting through ⅕ of the season. You can see similarities between them and the 2015 Cubs, who also surprised a lot of teams on their way to the NLCS that year. There are enough good, young pieces for this team to at least continue to pester the Mets all season. With any luck, the Mets won’t be caught off-guard again.
Photo credits: Rich Schultz/Getty Images
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