The Atlanta Braves have secured the second-best record in the National League, while the New York Mets are closing out a season where a surge into contention in the wild-card race fell short.
Not much is on the line when the Braves visit the Mets on Friday night to open a three-game series other than some individual achievements for Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies and New York rookie first baseman Pete Alonso.
Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Albies has 187 hits and is tied for the league lead with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte, who will not play for the rest of the regular season. He leads Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado by three hits.
Atlanta (97-62) will face the winner of the National League Central and is closing out a second straight season as the NL East champions. The Braves led the division for most of the season, clinched the division title Sept. 20, and Albies is batting .363 (29-for-80) in 21 games this month.
Albies picked up his latest hit when Atlanta claimed a 10-2 victory at Kansas City on Wednesday night. He is trying to become the fifth player in the Atlanta era to lead the league in hits, joining Freddie Freeman (2018), Terry Pendleton (1991, 1992), Ralph Garr (1974) and Felipe Alou (1966, 1968).
Albies also holds the Atlanta record for hits by a second baseman, surpassing the mark by Felix Millan in 1970.
“What a year that kid’s had,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s amazing. I was looking up there today and his year, what a phenomenal year he’s had.”
While Albies will be able to continue his stellar year in the postseason, Alonso and the Mets (83-76) will close out a season where they were officially eliminated from postseason contention on Wednesday.
Alonso hit his 51st homer Wednesday, and his next home run will tie the rookie record set by Aaron Judge in 2017. Alonso already holds the Mets’ single-season record for homers, surpassing the mark held by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran.
Alonso is also attempting to become the first Mets player to lead the majors in homers. He leads Cincinnati third baseman Eugenio Suarez by two homers.
“I don’t know what it would mean because it’s something that it still feels like a fantasy and honestly, I don’t think I can properly answer that until the time comes,” Alonso said Wednesday.
Alonso hit 30 homers before the All-Star break, when the Mets were 41-50, and has 21 since the break. He went 0-for-4 Thursday in New York’s 4-2 loss to the Miami Marlins.
Dallas Keuchel (8-7, 3.59) will make his third start of the season against the Mets on Friday. He has tossed 13 scoreless innings in his first two outings on Aug. 14 in Atlanta and Aug. 25 in New York.
Keuchel has lost his last two starts and last pitched Sunday in a 4-1 loss to San Francisco, allowing two runs on six hits in six innings.
Marcus Stroman (9-13, 3.23 ERA), who is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA with the Mets, starts on Friday. The Mets are 7-3 in his starts, including Sunday, when Stroman did not get a decision after allowing two runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Stroman is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three career starts against the Braves. His only start against them with the Mets was Aug. 15 in Atlanta, where he allowed three runs (two earned) in 5 1/3 innings of a 10-8 win.
–Field Level Media