So the Braves come into Flushing, steal the Mets’ mojo for the weekend, then leave town with a demoralizing sweep that puts a dent in their longtime piñata’s playoff chances.
Ever hear that story before?
Right. Only about a million times. Chipper Jones named his son Shea for a reason. Brian Snitker is no Bobby Cox, but he’s got these Braves playing like their annoying forefathers.
What makes matters worse — and should put a chill in these Mets — is the reminder of how quickly the magic, or luck, or momentum, can switch direction. It never flows just one way in baseball.
Here’s an example of that, fresh from Sunday’s 2-1 loss on a beautiful, postcard-perfect afternoon at Citi Field.
In the second inning, Josh Donaldson — think Chipper 2.0 — skies a high fly toward the chicken-sandwich pole in leftfield. Steven Matz looks up, tracking its flight, and J.D. Davis gives chase, not stopping until he’s a few feet from the wall and the ball lands a few rows further.
The stats on Donaldson’s blast? According to Baseball Savant, the home run had an exit velocity of 103.6 mph, a launch angle of 46 degrees, an expected batting average of .120 and a distance of 342 feet.
We’re not usually in the habit of getting so data-specific, but bear with us on this one.
In the fourth inning, Davis pulls a similar shot off Braves starter Dallas Keuchel, also toward the leftfield corner. And when we say similar, check these numbers: 103.8-mph exit velo, 46-degree launch angle, .120 XBA, distance of 349 feet.
So Davis’ fly ball was pretty much identical to Donaldson’s homer by every measure, other than it traveled seven feet shorter and landed in Adam Duvall’s glove.
“It’s a funny game,” Mickey Callaway said. “His goes out and Davis’ doesn’t.”
Yup. Braves-Mets, Chapter 754. And that’s how this weekend went down, with Flushing castoff Adeiny Hechavarria getting his revenge — if not his $1M roster bonus — by teaming with .214 hitter Billy Hamilton to hand the Mets Friday’s 14-inning loss. Then there was the speedy Hamilton embarrassing Davis in Saturday’s loss by scoring off his casual throw and Freddie Freeman going deep off Edwin Diaz, right before the enigmatic closer left with a tight trapezius muscle.
Whatever the Mets tried to do, the Braves did them one better. They even threw shade on the big moment for Pete Alonso, whose franchise record-tying 41st homer was buried in the garbage heap of Saturday’s loss.
The tide can turn quickly in late August, and the Mets, as brilliantly as they’ve played since the All-Star break, must realize how fragile this climb back to contention really is. Despite getting swept by the Braves, it was only the Mets’ third series loss since the break and they still have a .675 winning percentage (27-13) in the second half.
The pressure to maintain such a pace, however, can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to keep up with four tightly packed teams in the wild-card race. The Mets stranded 21 runners in the three games. At times, the strain was evident, with key sluggers Alonso, Davis and Michael Conforto not having their best at-bats, probably because they slipped into hero mode rather than staying disciplined.
The Mets’ adrenaline levels have to be red-lining right now, and with so many dramatic wins strung together in a relatively short period, this is uncharted territory for a young team. Davis acknowledged that the group might need a deep breath just to gather themselves and “recharge” for the next series, which starts Tuesday against the Cubs at Citi Field.
There’s no shame in that. The Braves left them reeling a bit coming off their own sweep of the Indians, but three straight losses aren’t fatal. Not yet.
“We’re confident this is just a little speed bump,” Davis said.
The Mets have to make sure, and as Callaway mlentioned, two of the losses were decided by one run. If Matz isn’t pulled after six innings and 102 pitches, Paul Sewald doesn’t give up Donaldson’s homer in the seventh, which proved to be the game-winner. Or if the Mets use Wilson Ramos to pinch hit for Rene Rivera against Keuchel, maybe they get a run or two before the ninth.
Callaway explained that Ramos needed the break from catching, and he later chipped in with a pinch-hit single in the ninth. It was just too little, too late; Joe Panik’s groundout ended the game.
The Mets’ mojo took the weekend off. Probably at the Hamptons, enjoying the weather. But they need it back for Tuesday against the Cubs.