Slumping Mets limp into Atlanta
With their pitching staff providing indication that April was a fluke and Jeff Francoeur duplicating the nosedive he experienced in Atlanta last year, the Mets will limp into Turner Field tonight looking much more vulnerable than that club that swept the Braves at Citi Field less than a month ago.
That three-game series in New York proved to be one of the ugliest the Braves have played in recent memory. Brian McCann was confused about the infield fly rule. Yunel Escobar decided he wanted to deny Troy Glaus an RBI on a routine sacrifice fly. Then to end the forgettable weekend, the Braves were handed a 1-0 loss when rain prevented the resumption of play after the fifth inning of the series finale.
There was a sense that things could get wore for the Braves. But even the harshest cynic would have had a tough time believing that just four days later, manager Bobby Cox would be staring at a nine-game losing streak and the reality that he would have to spend at least the next two weeks without both Yunel Escobar and Jair Jurrjens.
When Jurrjens and Escobar were both injured on April 29, there was reason to believe if this would be a season that would lead Cox to wish he had retired one year earlier. But 18 days later, there is reason to wonder if this is a season that is fittingly shaping up to once again show the kind of steadying influence Cox provides through disastrous stretches.
The Braves certainly haven’t escaped their early-season mess while winning five of their past six games. But they have at least put themselves in a good position as they enter a 13-game stretch that will carry them into a three-game series (May 31-June 2) against the Phillies.
But before looking ahead to this week’s two-game set against the surging Reds or the opportunity to play the Pirates both of the next two weekends, the Braves must first look to take advantage of the slumping Mets, who have lost five straight and seven of their last eight games.
When the Braves were in New York, the Mets were in the midst of a 10-1 stretch during which their pitchers posted a 1.99 ERA. This same pitching staff has posted a 5.38 ERA while going 4-11 in May. <p>
When he got re-acquainted with some of his former Braves teammates last month, Francoeur was in the early stages of the slump that has led to the .214 batting average that he will carry into tonight’s series opener against Derek Lowe.
After Francoeur batted .457 with three homers in his first 10 games this year, some Braves fans were wondering why he couldn’t have produced these kinds of numbers under the tutelage of Terry Pendleton. But in some ways his struggles this season mirror those that he experienced last year in Atlanta.
Since hittting .302 with a .947 OPS through his first 14 games this year, Francoeur has batted .154 with a .421 OPS in the 24 games that have followed.
Last year, he hit .304 with a .780 OPS in his first 14 games and then batted .204 with a .528 OPS over the course of his next 24 games.
Like Francoeur, Mike Pelfrey enters tonight’s matchup against Lowe without the same kind of confidence that he possessed when he tossed five scoreless innings against the Braves on April 25. At the time, he hadn’t allowed a run in 24 consecutive innings.
Through his first three starts in May, the 26-year-old right-hander has completed 17 innings and allowed 13 earned runs. When he last opposed the Braves at Turner Field on July 17 of last year, he was tagged for nine earned runs and nine hits in just 4 1/3 innings.
Smoltz vs. Glavine: If you’re not watching “24″ or the game tonight, I really don’t know what else you could be viewing. But if you want to watch Tom Glavine and John Smoltz play a competitive round of golf tune to the Golf Channel at 9 p.m. ET tonight to see them featured on Donald J. Trump’s Fabulous World of Golf. If you don’t have a DVR, the match will be shown multiple times throughout this week.