Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By JAY CLEMONS  |  Last updated 8/20/13
Here are three things we learned from the Braves' 4-3 road loss to the Mets on Tuesday. 1. It's crunch time for Brandon Beachy, even though Atlanta is cruising toward a division title OK, so nobody would ever confuse the current New York lineup (sans David Wright) with the 1927 Yankees or even the 1984 Mets, but Beachy still deserves props for his stellar work in the first five innings. After surrendering an unearned run early on (more on that later), Beachy then breezed through the next four frames, retiring 12 batters and allowing only a harmless Juan Lagares infield single in the 5th. By all appearances, Beachy was on the path to a seven- or eight-inning gem, with minimal resistance. But things took a turn for the worse in the sixth inning. Eric Young Jr. and Daniel Murphy opened with singles. They then ratcheted up the pressure by executing a textbook double steal, which elicited a throwing error from Braves catcher Brian McCann (at second base). That enabled Young to score his second run of the evening, boosting the Mets' lead to 2-0. The next batter, Marlon Byrd, then belted a two-run homer to right field (2-2 count), raising New York's advantage to four. In a flash, a potentially dynamic outing quickly regressed into Beachy's first MLB loss of the season. In the short term, the occasional defeat doesn't profoundly affect Atlanta (up 15 games in the NL East) too much. From an individual standpoint, though, Beachy (the National League's ERA leader last year before an elbow injury) needs every bit of positive evidence to seal his case for starting one of the Braves' playoff games in October, whether home or away. Speaking of which ... if the postseason started today (an inane way to start a sentence), Atlanta (76-49) would have home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs. And with Paul Maholm set to rejoin the rotation this weekend, it's quite possible that Beachy, Maholm and rookie Alex Wood will continue to audition for the fourth and final starting slot over the next five weeks. (We'll concede the first three spots to Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen). In other words, every pitch, every inning, every untimely error affects Beachy's candidacy for the postseason. 2. The baseball gods had some fun with Andrelton Simmons on this night Simmons got off to a rough start in the opening frame, committing a throwing error during Young's leadoff at-bat. Soon after, Young stole second base ... and then scored on Ike Davis's RBI single with two outs. Six innings later, with the bases loaded and two outs, Simmons found redemption at the plate, cracking a three-run triple off Mets reliever Carlos Torres. The bases-clearing liner down the left-field line was particularly impressive, considering Torres's delivery had plenty of upward movement; and during the slow-motion replay, Simmons momentarily lowered his wrists typically a bad move against rising fastballs. And yet, Simmons made it work against Torres. He also gave the Braves a glimmer of hope for a game that seemed largely academic just a few minutes prior, after Chris Johnson (groundout) and Jordan Schafer (strikeout) meekly opened the 7th with outs. 2a. The Mets bullpen must have some kind of psychological hold on the Braves' bats New York's relief corps has something like a 0.32 ERA against Atlanta this season (thanks to the Fox Sports South TV crew), an impressive stat that becomes even more galling when looking up the bullpen's seasonal ERA against all comers 3.76. That number includes the 15 games against the Braves, by the way. 3. The Mets could be formidable challengers to the Braves' NL East title chances next year Factoring in Tuesday's result, four National League clubs boast a winning record against the Braves this season the Brewers (2-1) Padres (3-0), Giants (4-3) and Mets (8-7). Curiously, none of the four owns an above-.500 overall record at this time. For this exercise, though, let's focus on the Mets: From a pitching standpoint, New York could trot out an under-25 starting rotation of Matt Harvey (9-4, 2.25 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 18731 K-BB), Zack Wheeler (Tuesday's victorious pitcher), Noah Syndergaard (the club's No. 1 prospect) and Rafael Montero (12-6, 134 Ks in the minors) and realistically flirt with 80-85 wins. Throw in the stealth contribution of Dillon Gee (turns 28 next April) and the Mets could bear the look of a pennant contender in 2014, while sporting a rotation that bears an eerie resemblance to New York's starting unit in 1984, upside-wise: Dwight Gooden (age 19) Ron Darling (age 23) Walt Terrell (age 26) Sid Fernandez (age 21)
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