Tonigh,t the Atlanta Braves will go for what most thought improbable two days ago—a sweep of the New York Mets at Turner Field.
The Braves have dominated the Mets the last two days with stunning starting pitching and overpowering run production. The Braves have outscored the not-so-amazin' Mets 23 to seven. Braves' starters combined ERA in the series have been under one, while the Mets' have been over nine.
The series has also contained it's share of storylines. Both teams have seen hot players (Church and Escobar) go to the bench after an unnecessary collision. Tom Glavine made most his former teammates look like little leaguers when he sat down the last 17 Mets he faced, only allowing one run on three hits (all coming in the first inning) on Tuesday.
Jorge Campillo, in his first major league start since 2005, made quick work of the Mets, striking out seven and only allowing three hits, during six innings of shutout work.
Both coaches have became more vocal than usual during the series. Willie Randolph's frustrations with the team's TV coverage portraying him in a negative light were highly publicized. And Bobby Cox expressed displeasure with what he called Ryan Church's "dirty slide" at the end of the second game on Tuesday. The play injured both Church and Braves shortstop/leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar—neither of which were in the line up Wednesday, nor expected to play Thursday evening.
The Braves and Mets are no strangers to dramatic baseball, but the way this series has gone, Thursday night's match up of Johan Santana and Tim Hudson should be an interesting way to end the series, to say the least.
At the time in the season when the top teams start to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, every game counts—especially the ones against your division rivals.
Even though the Mets came into Atlanta fresh off a sweep over the Yankees in the Bronx, they have been unable to produce in The Ted this week. They dropped a series to the Nationals last week in Shea and now regardless of what happens tonight, will drop another series against the Braves and still must face the division leading Marlins in Shea next week.
It is no secret they need to turn it around if they want to be in the playoff race come September. If the Mets do not start winning division games they will fall out of things quickly. And the seat will only get hotter for Willie Randolph.
The Braves are a game and a half back from the division lead and need every win they can get at home, while they continue to struggle on the road. They will also host the D'Backs for four games after they finish up with the Mets, so a win is definitely still a need for Atlanta.
- Johan Santana (5-2 - 3.30 ERA) vs. Tim Hudson (6-3 - 3.06).
- Braves will likely go without Shortstop Yunel Escobar and Mets will likely go with out right fielder Ryan Church, both of whom were injured in the game ending colision Tuesday night. Chipper Jones who leads the league in hitting, left Wednesday nights game after being hit by a pitch square on the shin. Chipper said he expects to play Thursday.
Keys to Victory for the Mets:
- Santana must get ahead in the count and not let the Braves work his pitch count like they have in the first three games of the series. The more innings he can produce the better.
- The Mets bats have to score runs. As stated earlier, they have been out scored 23 to seven. They will have to push across every possible run with Hudson toeing the rubber.
Keys to Victory for the Braves:
- Work Santana's pitch count high early and get to the already stressed Mets Bullpen as quick as possible.
- Get runners on base for Chipper, Teixeira, McCain and Francoeur to continue their hot bats.
One thing is for sure. If you are in the Atlanta area tonight, forget about Indiana Jones and come to Turner Field to watch two of the games best slug it out for the oh-so-important positioning in the highly competitive NL East.