The New York Mets on Sunday prevailed in the series finale over the Atlanta Braves and in doing so took four of five from their National League East rivals. As a consequence their division lead over the reigning World Series champs has now swollen to 6 1/2 games. That’s obviously not insurmountable, but it’s quite a sizable margin given that we’re in the second week of August.
Needless to say, the recent outcomes at Citi Field left the Braves in a somewhat defensive state of mind. Take, for instance, the postgame remarks of Sunday’s starter for the Braves, rookie Spencer Strider:
“A lot of weird hits. They seem to be having a lot of luck right now offensively. That’s great. It’s August. (We’ll) see what things are like in October.”
While this might sound a bit like petulance on Strider’s part, he’s not entirely off base. Of the six hits he allowed on Sunday, three had expected batting averages (based on things like exit velocity and launch angle) of .220 or less. Here’s one such example:
That’s bound to stick in a pitcher’s craw a bit, but, well, that’s baseball. As well, the Mets worked Strider for 79 pitches in 2 2/3 innings on Sunday, so there was more than just cruel misfortune at work. Speaking of which, Strider also had this to say after the series finale:
“It helps when they’re getting calls and 1-1 counts turn to 2-1 counts instead of 1-2 counts, and stuff like that. When your BABIP is .330, .340 as a team, it’s tough to get quick innings and get quick outs.”
Strider might have had that Alonso double in mind when he said this because he probably should have had the Mets’ slugger in an 0-2 count during that at-bat instead of a more perilous 1-1 tally:
Again, though, these are the sorts of pivot points that you can point to in most MLB games.
At this juncture, it becomes a Rorschach based on rooting interests. Braves fans are likely to see Strider’s remarks as rational explanations, while Mets fans are broadly going to perceive it as excuse-making. This will of course be revisited in a matter of days when the Mets visit the Braves for a four-game set that begins next Monday. As for Strider’s “October” reference, both teams grade out as near playoff locks according to the SportsLine Projection System, so maybe they’ll indeed get to settle matters in a postseason clash.