The Mets will play in Atlanta on Tuesday for the first time since being humiliated in a three-game sweep last season that cost them the National League East title.
After three straight losses to the Blue Jays over the weekend, how do the Mets (30-30) turn around this season and show Atlanta they mean business in the division?
“Win,” said Pete Alonso.
But that’s proved to be easier said than done for the Mets in Atlanta.
Last season on Sept. 30, the Mets arrived at Truist Park needing one victory to sew up the division. They had Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt lined up to face Atlanta but lost all three games. They ended up as a 101-win wild-card team before dropping two of three to San Diego in the Wild Card Series despite playing all three games at Citi Field.
This time the Mets go in as the third-place team in the NL East, 5 1⁄2 games behind Atlanta (35-24). They will start Carlos Carrasco, Scherzer and Justin Verlander against Atlanta’s Bryce Elder, Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider.
Big games? For Atlanta, nah. For the Mets, yes.
“Every game is big for us,” Alonso said, “and we just need to take as many wins as we possibly can. It’s that simple: play well, win ballgames.”
The Mets did neither of those things against the Blue Jays after their three-game sweep of the Phillies. They scored five runs total against Toronto — four of them Sunday — and looked particularly annoyed after coming back from a 4-0 deficit with four solo home runs to tie it, only to lose anyway.
“They’re all frustrating in their own different ways,” Alonso said. “Nothing’s more frustrating than another. I mean, we fought hard. I thought we played decent ball, but we fell short three days in a row. It’s not great. It’s frustrating, 100% it is. Just the whole weekend, they pitched well. They hit well. I thought we pitched well and hit well. It’s just that they were a little bit better.”
Atlanta has been a little bit better than it was at this time last season. On June 6, 2022, the Mets were 38-19 and led Atlanta (28-27) by nine games. The Phillies, who ended up as the National League champions, were 25-29. So even though it’s starting to feel late, on the baseball calendar, it’s still relatively early.
Atlanta just won two in a row over Arizona after going through a stretch in which it was 8-13. On Sunday, Atlanta used a grand slam by Eddie Rosario with two outs in the ninth inning to earn a thrilling 8-5 victory.
“I liked how we hung around in that game,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said, according to The Associated Press. “That showed the kind of mettle we have and what these guys are made of.”
The Mets like to think they also are made of good stuff and are just going through a difficult time with inconsistent play in all phases of the game, especially offensively.
It doesn’t get any easier on Tuesday. Elder, a 23-year-old righthander who has never started against the Mets, leads the majors with a 1.92 ERA.
“Obviously, the first thing [missing] is consistency offensively that we know guys are capable of,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “We haven’t been able to put that together. And then what happens? Then you have a game where you don’t play well defensively. Then you have a game where you don’t pitch well. It’s a constant chase for having perfection in every phase of the game. We know it doesn’t happen, but we’re capable of better.”
METS-ATLANTA PITCHING MATCHUPS
Lifetime records against opponent in parentheses:
Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 4.30 ERA) vs. Bryce Elder (0-0, 11.57)
Max Scherzer (13-10, 3.77) vs. Charlie Morton (4-6, 3.82)
Justin Verlander (2-1, 2.57) vs. Spencer Strider (3-1, 5.03)