Dan's Dugout: Braves Play Spoiler in Queens • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Braves Play Spoiler in Queens

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FLUSHING, NY — Although the Atlanta Braves are certain to finish with the worst record in the National League, they remain a thorn in the side of the New York Mets.

The Braves made quick work of Mets ace Noah Syndergaard Monday, driving him from the box in the fourth inning en route to a 7-3 win.

That gave Atlanta an 8-9 record against the Mets, who went into the game after sweeping the Minnesota Twins in an interleague series over the weekend.

Julio Teheran has been a tough customer for the Mets this season

Julio Teheran has been a tough customer for the Mets this season

With Mets killer Julio Teheran pitching for the Braves Tuesday, that record could soon be even. Teheran pitched a one-hit shutout at CitiField earlier this season and threw 29 straight scoreless frames against the Mets over a two-season span.

Thriving under interim manager Brian Snitker, who replaced Fredi Gonzalez on May 17, the Braves have been hitting with regularity since trading for Matt Kemp in August. Leadoff man Ender Inciarte and No. 3 hitter Freddie Freeman have been especially potent, with Freeman enjoying a four-hit night in the New York opener.

One of those four hits was his 31st home run, a career high. Kemp has the same number, though most of his were hit for the San Diego Padres.

Like Freeman, rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson, who had three hits against the Mets Monday, has pushed his average above .300. Veteran outfielder Nick Markakis, plagued by neck issues last season, has also become a key contributor to the revived Atlanta lineup.

Ironically, the Braves had good pitching without much hitting during the first four months but have now gone in the other directions. The team is averaging more than five runs per game since the All-Star break and Inciarte has more hits during that time than any other major-leaguer.

Interim manager Brian Snitker, the beneficiary of the beefed-up offense, told reporters before the game that his team would play to win all three games against the Mets.

“We’ve been playing so well it seems like we’re the team fighting for the wild-card,” he said. “We play every game to win.”

Noah Syndergaard took an early shower Monday Photo: George Napolitano, LatinoSports

Noah Syndergaard took an early shower Monday
Photo: George Napolitano, LatinoSports

The pitching matchup Monday seemed wildly tilted in favor of the Mets, with Syndergaard facing winless rookie Aaron Blair, owner of an 0-6 record 8.32 earned run average. But the Braves spotted him a 5-0 lead, allowing Blair to pitch six strong innings. All he surrendered was a two-run homer by T.J. Rivera, the Pacific Coast League batting champion who became a sudden slugger in the bigs.

The loss hurt the Mets, who went into play owning home-field advantage in the one-game playoff to determine the wild-card winner. Right behind them were the San Francisco Giants, one game behind, and the St. Louis Cardinals, two games out.

Two of those teams will meet in the sudden-death game.

With injuries certain to influence the outcome, this wild-card chase should be called The Last Man Standing.

The Cleveland Indians, virtually certain to win the American League Central, will have to wade through the postseason without catcher Yan Gomes and starting pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. Also in the AL Central, the Kansas City Royals got nothing from Kris Medlen (shoulder) . . .

Injuries to Starlin Castro (hamstring) and Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) could not have come at a worse

Jacoby Ellsbury hurt his knee at a critical time. Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Jacoby Ellsbury hurt his knee at a critical time.
Image Credit: Bill Menzel

time for the fading New York Yankees.

The Houston Astros lost ace lefthander Dallas Keuchel, last year’s American League Cy Young winner and All-Star starter, and more recently rookie infielder Alex Bregman (hamstring strain).

In the National League, the Mets are without Jacob deGrom, their No. 2 starter, and versatile infielder Wilmer Flores, whose righthanded power would be welcome on a team that leans lefthanded. Also out are regular second baseman Neil Walker (back surgery) and starters Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler, though slugger Lucas Duda and centerfielder Juan Lagares made early returns from the disabled list.

The Washington Nationals have lost Stephen Strasburg, who started the season 13-0 while forming a formidable 1-2 punch with Max Scherzer, the likely Cy Young Award winner in the National League.

When healthy, Clayton Kershaw may be the top current player

When healthy, Clayton Kershaw may be the top current player

In Los Angeles, the Dodgers hung onto first place even after losing ace lefthander Clayton Kershaw for a couple of months with a bad back. The pitching staff has also suffered several other key injuries.

NL Central teams have no chance of catching the Chicago Cubs, who are bound for a 100-win season, but the St. Louis Cardinals suffered when closer Seung-hwan Oh was idled by a groin injury and the Pittsburgh Pirates missed outfielder Starling Marte (back spasms). The Pirates, no longer a factor in the wild-card race, also shut down ace starter Gerrit Cole (elbow).

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About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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