Flushing, New York- The time has come in the regular season where every game has massive proportions on division leads and wild card outlooks. The intensity shows inning by inning. Playoff atmospheres begin to arise. Well, uniquely enough, the NL East battle between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets contains that thrilling intensity and playoff-like atmosphere. For the series opener on Thursday at Citi Field, 38,693 fans were in attendance along with 40,305 on Friday night to witness the heated division matchup go down.
Among the elite Latino superstars across MLB, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Francisco Lindor highlight the players to watch in the weekend series between Atlanta and New York. To add in to the key players, New York made several additions leading up to the trade deadline. Let’s start by diving into all that’s in store between the Braves and Mets.
Thursday 6/4 Results
Mets win 6-4
Friday 6/5 Results
Braves win 9-6
Saturday 6/6 – Doubleheader Probables – 1:10pm and 7:10pm
Game 1: RHP Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 3.75 ERA) vs. LHP David Peterson (5-2, 3.54 ERA)
Game 2: LHP Max Fried (10-3, 2.58 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (7-2, 2.13 ERA)
Sunday 6/7 Probables – 4:10pm
RHP Spencer Strider (5-3, 2.91 ERA) vs. RHP Jacob DeGrom (0-0, 1.80 ERA)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
ATL: Ronald Acuña Jr. – La Guaria, Venezuela
On display in the box score nearly every night, Acuñas production is essential to Atlanta’s chase in catching the Mets for the NL East division title. The 24-year-olds skill set comes to haunt New York in each phase during the most clutch scenarios.
Lets begin with the series opener this past Thursday evening. Acuña clobbered a two-run homer off RHP Carlos Carrasco into the Big Apple vicinity located in center field, marking his 9th HR of the season. Skip forward to Friday night in the bottom of the first inning, a leaping Acuña robbed Pete Alonso of an opposite field two-run home run. To follow, he led off the next inning with a single to center field and proceeded with his 23rd stolen base of the year. The Venezuelan superstar now ranks 4th across MLB this season in stolen bases.
In his final at bat of the night, Acuña delivered with a single to shallow center field marking his 500th hit of his career. He tied his career high in hits, finishing the game 4-5 and 1 run scored. In 7 games played against the Mets this season, Acuña is 7-26 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, and two doubles.
NYM: Francisco Lindor – Caguas, Puerto Rico – 2016 American League LatinoMVP
The Mets have held control of the NL East division for the majority of this season due to the contributions of Lindor and Alonso. Leading the charge night in and night out, Alonso and Lindor are the only teammates in MLB this season with 70 or more RBI.
Speaking of offensive production, Lindor is paving the path alongside the most notable shortstops in Mets franchise history. With 72 RBI while playing shortstop (74 total) this year, Lindor has the second most RBI in a single season by a shortstop in Mets history. In the next few weeks, Lindor could pass the feat set out by José Reyes in 2006. Reyes finished his memorable 2006 season with 81 RBI in 153 games played.
In Friday’s loss to Atlanta, Lindor put together two hits in five at bats with 1 run scored. The 28-year-old extended his on base streak to 12 games and increased his batting average to .262 with a .341 OBP.
Trade deadline moves have begun to make significant impacts across MLB. GM Billy Eppler and the Mets front office bolstered their needs in the DH role by using the analytical approach compared to the avenue of blockbuster trades. With the acquisitions of Daniel Vogelbach and Tyler Naquin, the blend of offensive versatility has flourished early within this Mets lineup. The numbers speak for themselves when looking into the beginning of Vogelbach and Naquin in orange and blue.
Daniel Vogelbach: 10-32, 2 HR, 5 RBI – 11 games played
Tyler Naquin: 7-20, 2 HR, 3 RBI – 6 games played
The acquisition of Darin Ruf provides reinforcements to this Mets offense, especially against left-handed pitching. Ruf is hitting .257 with 9 HR, 26 RBI against LHP this season. On Friday night in the 5th inning against left hander Dylan Lee, Ruf sparked his Mets debut with an opposite field two-run double.
With this considered, will the additions of Vogelbach, Naquin and Ruf be enough to hold off Atlanta? In my opinion, the race for the NL East will be a back and forth contested battle until the end. From Saturday August 6th-Sunday October 2nd, Braves and Mets will face off in 10 games. Entering Saturday’s doubleheader, New York holds a 3.5-game lead in the NL East. Expect the array of playoff intensity to continue throughout this bitter sweet division rivalry.
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Robert Rizzo writes for Latino Sports
Follow on Twitter: @RobertRiz994
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