The New York Mets realized the Atlanta Braves were pretty good during a three-game series in Atlanta in April. But now that the Braves have added two more fresh-faced prospects, the Mets and the rest of the National League East may have their hands full a little sooner than expected.
The Braves will look to move into first place in the NL East on Wednesday night, when they face the host Mets in the middle contest of a three-game series at Citi Field. Atlanta earned a 3-2 victory in Tuesday's opener and has outscored New York 22-14 in winning three of four meetings this season.
Mets ace right-hander Jacob deGrom (3-0, 2.06 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Braves left-hander Sean Newcomb (1-1, 4.23) as the Mets (17-10) try to stay ahead of second-place Atlanta (17-11) in the NL East.
The Mets thought they would see Newcomb on Tuesday night. Instead, the Braves started 20-year-old Mike Soroka, who was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett earlier Tuesday and won his major league debut by limiting New York to one run over six innings.
With Soroka, Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, the Braves have the three youngest players in baseball. The Tuesday night lineup marked the first time in almost 40 years one team started the three youngest players in the game. Atlanta also did it Sept. 24, 1978, when it started Bob Horner, Glenn Hubbard and Eddie Miller.
Acuna, who is four months older than Soroka, was recalled from Gwinnett on April 25 and recorded his fourth multi-hit game Tuesday in six starts. Albies, 21, entered play Tuesday with at least a share of the National League lead in homers, doubles, hits and runs scored.
Albies and Acuna are hitting in front of comparatively ancient 28-year-old first baseman Freddie Freeman, who is batting .318 with a team-high 21 RBIs after his two-run double in the first inning Tuesday gave the Braves a lead they would never relinquish.
"You put Acuna in there with Albies and all those guys, and Freeman can just flat-out hit, I don't care who you are pitching," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said following Tuesday's game. "They're pretty good and they play the game the right way. They're a really good team."
A night like Tuesday was what the Braves had in mind when they embarked upon a massive rebuilding project during the 2015 season. Atlanta entered this season 165-231 since the 2015 All-Star Break, a stretch in which it never spent a day above .500.
The last time the Braves were six games above .500 was Sept. 6, 2014.
"It's kind of what we've been working towards here for a while," Braves manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday night. "You've been hearing about these guys, now you finally get them up here. It's exciting, it's fun, it's energizing for everybody to have the young guys."
DeGrom earned the win Friday, when he tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the Mets' 5-1 victory over the San Diego Padres. He hasn't allowed a run in his last two starts, a stretch of 14 1/3 innings.
Newcomb didn't factor into the decision Thursday, when he allowed four runs on five hits over six innings as the Braves beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-4.
DeGrom is 5-3 with a 1.99 ERA in 12 career starts against the Braves. In an April 21 start against the Braves this season, deGrom pitched seven shutout innings but did not get a decision in a 4-3 Atlanta victory.
Newcomb is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in four career starts against the Mets. He started a game against the Mets this season on April 20, giving up three runs on six hits in six innings. He did not get a decision in the Mets' 5-3 win.