A fitting wrap-up for the season
There was a span of time, early in the season, and perhaps even beforehand, that the 2021 regular season schedule appeared hand-crafted for maximum drama: if they could stay close enough, the road to snapping the Braves’ streak of three straight division titles would run through Atlanta, and the upstart New York Mets would have to clamber through it. Instead, the drama came a little earlier, as the Braves had a battle for the division with the Phillies and resoundingly swept ‘em… meaning that this series isn’t a focal point. It’s just a victory lap.
And don’t get me wrong, I love a good victory lap. One of my favorite memories was not just the divisional clinch in 2018, but how the Braves ran out a true post-clinch lineup against the Phillies they had bested earlier in the series, and then also somehow beat Aaron Nola with that lineup by a 2-1 score to complete the sweep. A combination of the fact that the Phillies have left town and the new September roster rules make something about as sweet not really possible, but hosting the Mets for a post-clinch, ultimately meaningless series rather than a high-tension one is a pretty decent consolation prize, especially if you like gloating and/or schaudenfreude. After all, the Mets were generally divisional favorites (or close to it), before completely falling apart. When the Braves last faced them in a five-game series (doubleheader included) in late July, they were five games back in the division with playoff odds around 1-in-10, while the Mets had playoff odds of 70-80 percent. As you know, though, the tables have finished turning. The Braves have gone 35-19 since, securing their fourth straight divisional crown. The Mets, meanwhile, have gone 21-36, making them the only team in history to have led the division for as many days as they did (114, including off-days) and still finish with a below-.500 record. The world’s a little crazy these days, but you can still count on the Mets being the Mets, I guess. It’s somewhat comforting.
About as comforting as this series should be for Atlanta, with nothing really at stake short of running their win total higher than 86. The Braves would need to sweep this series to avoid having the lowest win total for an NL East division winner since 2007 (Phillies, 89-73, swept by the Rockies in the NLDS). If they win two games, they’ll have the lowest since their (awesome) 2001 season. Since the current divisional arrangement has been in place, the NL East has never been claimed with fewer than 88 wins, so I suppose the Braves are playing for avoiding that dubious distinction, but not much else.
As for the Mets, well, their inaugural season under Steve Cohen and Luis Rojas has been pretty much no fun for a few months. The Mets went a horrid 9-19 in August and are a better-but-still-bad 11-16 in September. They’ve had three separate losing streaks of five games since the start of August, and while they most recently took three of four from the Marlins, they came into that series having lost 10 of 11.
The Braves will send out Huascar Ynoa for a final regular season tune-up to kick off the series. Ynoa has had a pretty fun inaugural rotation season minus that whole broken-hand-from-punching-an-inanimate-object thing, with a 93 ERA-, 92 FIP-, and 80 (!!!) xFIP-. He’s been somewhat worse since returning from injury, but still solid. He actually has a pretty insane xFIP under 3.00 for his first two times through the order, and his line is substantially marred by an FIP and xFIP north of 6.00 the third time through the order. That stung him last time out, as he retired just one of the four batters he faced the third time through, allowing a grand slam to Manny Machado in the process. Weirdly, Ynoa hasn’t faced the Mets this year, though that’ll of course change after tonight.
For the Mets, Tylor Megill will be making his 18th career start. Megill’s season has kind of reflected the Mets’ slide — he put up 0.8 fWAR in his first seven career starts, pretty good for a 40 FV prospect, but has shed 0.2 of that in 10 outings since. His xFIP has only gone up a bit, but his HR/FB rate jumped from 10 percent to 25 percent, so you get the idea. Megill has faced the Braves three times, and the Mets won all three games — but if it happens this time, it won’t sting quite as much.
Anyway, sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy some low-stakes baseball, probably with the whole bench getting a start (or substantial playing time) in this game.
New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves
Friday, October 1, 2021
7:20 pm EDT
Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM
XM Radio: Ch. 187