Four keys that could decide the crucial Mets-Braves series

Four keys that could decide the crucial Mets-Braves series

ATLANTA — Ahead of the Mets’ most important weekend of the season, here’s a look at four keys that could decide their streak against the Braves — and the NL East:

Mets ace caps vs. Braves ace seasons

There’s no better 1-2 potential in baseball than Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.

There might not have been a better 1-2 in baseball in 2022 than Max Fried and Kyle Wright.

DeGrom and Scherzer, with a combined 24 years of big-league experience and five Cy Young awards, have been as dominant as advertised — when they pitch. Both have missed a lot of time through injuries and neither qualify for the ERA title.

Fried, 28 (2.50) and Wright, 26 (3.18), have fourth and thirteenth best ERAs in the league, respectively. They’ve made 29 starts apiece and have been excellent, flanked until recently by rookie Spencer Strider, who came out with an oblique injury but hopes to return in the playoffs.

Will the careers of Mets aces or the campaigns of Braves aces prove more important?

Jacob de Grom and Max Fried
Jacob de Grom and Max Fried
PA; USA TODAY Sports

Which offensive approach will work best?

Putting the ball in play will be a challenge. Mets staff retired 1,504 batters this season, the most in baseball. A close number 2? The Braves, with 1,503.

To counter the many expected Ks, will the Mets’ contact-oriented attack or the power of the Braves be more important?

The Mets’ .332 on-base percentage trails only the Dodgers’ .334. The Mets are great at making contact and working their way to first base.

The Braves’ 234 homers this season are just behind the Yankees’ 243. Power comes from everywhere: Eight Atlanta hitters have homered at least 15 times.

Both approaches work — the Mets and Braves are fourth and third respectively in runs scored — but they’ll be tested against top-notch throws.

Can the Mets’ big bats stay hot?

With Starling Marte injured, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor warmed up at the right time.

Alonso has had three of his last four games — and nine times in September — and had 10 RBIs in that span, giving him the most in the majors. The first baseman posted a .924 OPS this month, lifting a formation that hasn’t been deep lately.

Lindor helped Alonso carry the weight, with a 13-game hitting streak in which he batted .333 with 11 RBI and 10 runs scored.

For the Mets to win, their stars will likely have to play like stars.

Can the Braves enclosure stay warm?

Although the Mets are still figuring out who is a reliable reliever and who isn’t, Atlanta doesn’t share that problem.

The Braves’ bullpen was the best in baseball by a considerable margin in September, posting a 1.57 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .151 batting average.

Closer Kenley Jansen, after a few misses earlier this season, allowed a run in his last seven innings. Raisel Iglesias hasn’t given up an earned run in 11 ²/₃ innings this month. AJ Minter has struck out 21 in his last 13 ¹/₃ innings. Dylan Lee has allowed two hits and no runs in his last 9 ¹/₃ innings.

The Mets offense might be better off pouncing on the Braves starters than trying to wear them down: the guys behind the aces are good too.

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