Matt Veasey's NL East beat

Matt Veasey’s NL East beat: Week of 4/01-4/07/19


Both Mets rookie first baseman Peter Alonso and Nats third baseman Anthony Rendon have gotten off hot this season. (David B. King)

This was a particularly interesting week for the National League East Division. Over this past weekend four of the five rivals faced-off with one another in head-to-head competition. The fifth team, our Philadelphia Phillies, captured a home Interleague series by taking two of the three games from the Minnesota Twins.

That series victory has left the Phillies alone on top of the division following the first full week of play. The following report reveals how each of the Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of that week: the games scores, pivotal performers, key injuries, and other important updates on each team are included.

This will be the format all year long, provided on Mondays as often as possible.

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

 

ATLANTA BRAVES (5 – 1)

Summary: It was a big week for Atlanta, who really needed it after being swept by the Phillies in their season-opening series. This past week the Braves opened up at SunTrust Park by sweeping the slow-starting Chicago Cubs by outscoring the Cubbies 23-8 over three games then taking two of three on the weekend from the Miami Marlins.

Five Atlanta pitchers combined to shutout the Cubs on April Fool’s Day. Starter Sean Newcomb was very fortunate in that one, surrendering six hits and walking four over four innings. But a double play combined with the Cubs batters leaving five runners in scoring position kept a goose egg on their side of the ledger.

On Friday it was another Atlanta shutout. But this time starter Kevin Gausman returned from the Injured List to provide seven strong innings, striking out seven and allowing just two hits and two walks.

Freddie Freeman continues to lead the Braves offense. He is slashing .419/.561/.645 with 13 hits and a team-high 10 walks. Shortstop Dansby Swanson is off hot as well, slashing .346/.471/.731 while leading the club in homers (3) and RBI (9) and looking like he wants to enjoy a true breakout. Second baseman Ozzie Albies is slashing .400/.475/.543 and leading the Braves with 14 hits.

Key injuries: Starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz began the season on the IL. His first rehab start went well and he is scheduled for another this week. If he continues to progress he could be activated this coming weekend or next week at the latest. Veteran catcher Brian McCann was placed on the IL over the weekend with a hamstring strain and could miss a month. Their other catcher, Tyler Flowers, is day-to day with a right hand injury.

Upcoming: The Braves travel all the way out to Colorado for a three-game series with the host Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. They return home for a seven-game home stand which begins by hosting the division-rival New York Mets in a four-game set beginning Thursday.

 

MIAMI MARLINS (1 -5 )

Summary: Last week was the first full week of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. It also marked the beginning of the end for the Marlins season. Dropping five of six games to the division-rival Mets and Nationals left the Fish four games below the .500 mark and four games out in the NL East race. They likely won’t see that .500 mark again this season and will never be closer to the division lead over the balance of 2019.

The Marlins offense produced just 19 runs over the six games last week, or roughly three per game. The lone true bright spot for the team came on Saturday when six pitchers combined to stymie the host Braves bats at SunTrust Park and the bats rallied from an early 2-0 hole to gain the week’s lone victory by 4-2.

23-year-old right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who has pitched in parts of the last two MLB seasons with the Cardinals and Marlins respectively but retains his official rookie eligibility for this year, has been stellar on the mound. He tossed four strong innings in the Saturday win and thus far has allowed just two earned runs and eight hits over 12 innings.

Righty starter Trevor Richards (26) and lefty starter Caleb Smith (27) have looked solid over their first two outings and hard-throwing reliever Tayron Guerrero looks as if he may have legitimate closer potential.

At the plate, Jorge Alfaro leads Miami with three homers and six RBI while hitting .280 over his first eight games. Second baseman Starlin Castro is batting .300 and leads the club with six runs scored and a dozen hits. Miguel Rojas has played three positions and hit .292 with five RBI.

Key injuries: Not much to report. As far as those who were expected to be impact players for the Marlins this season, such as those exist, everyone has been healthy to this point.

Upcoming: The Marlins travel to Cincinnati to take on the Reds from Tuesday through Thursday. They will then return home over the weekend to host the Phillies for three games.

 

NEW YORK METS (4 – 2)

Summary: The Metropolitans began the week by sweeping the weak-sister Marlins in three games, the final two in close affairs. The club then dropped two of three in Washington over last weekend, dropping the rubber game on Sunday in a 12-9 barn-burner.

The Mets have scored at least a half-dozen runs in six of their nine games to this point and got to Nationals ace Max Scherzer for four runs and eight hits over his 6.1 innings during the Sunday outburst. Normally that would give you an excellent chance at victory over the three-time Cy Young Award winner. However, Mets starter Zack Wheeler was rolled over for seven earned in 4.2 innings. He killed himself by walking an atrocious seven Washington batters.

Rookie first baseman Pete Alonso continued a torrid spring by getting off hot. He is slashing .382/.432/.824 with three homers and 11 RBI to lead the club. Michael Conforto is slashing .351/.415/.595 with a team-high nine runs scored and is tied for the team lead in hits with Alonso at 13. Catcher Wilson Ramos is hitting .400 and has a dozen hits to this point.

Utility man Jeff McNeil has split time between third base and left field and is slashing .409/.519/.519 with five runs scored. Robinson Cano, the Mets big off-season acquisition from Seattle, is slashing just .205/.225/.385 over his first 40 plate appearances with the team.

On the mound, Jacob deGrom (2-0) is looking as if he wants to take home a second straight NL Cy Young Award. The righty has surrendered just eight hits and no runs over his first 13 innings with an incredible 24/2 K:BB ratio. Steven Matz has looked strong over his first two starts. New closer Edwin Diaz has been perfect. Over his first five games, Diaz has four saves and allowed no runs on two hits across 3.2 innings with five strikeouts and no walks.

Key injuries: Three key, veteran bats remain out of the New York lineup. Yoenis Cespedes appeared in just 81 games in 2017 and 38 a year ago. He had surgery on his right heel in August and left heel in October. The 33-year-old will make $29 million for this season and then $29.5 next year. He hopes to return at some point after the MLB All-Star Game break, but he could also end up missing the season. Third baseman Todd Frazier (oblique) and infielder Jed Lowrie (spring knee capsule) have no timetable for return. Frazier is on a minor league rehab assignment and could be back within a couple of weeks.

Upcoming: The Mets will host the Minnesota Twins for a quick two-game Interleague series on Tuesday and Wednesday at Citi Field. They’ll then take to the road for a huge early-season 10-game road trip beginning with a four-game weekend in Atlanta against the division-rival Braves. That trip will continue with stops in Philly and Saint Louis next week.

 

WASHINGTON NATIONALS (3 – 2)

Summary: The Nats split a two-game series early last week in Bryce Harper‘s much-anticipated and emotional return to the place where the superstar right fielder spent his first seven seasons. After that drama, Washington traveled to the Big Apple and took two of three from the host Mets last weekend.

That the Nationals came away with three wins during a week in which their pitching staff surrendered at least eight runs on three different occasions and a half-dozen in another game is amazing. The bullpen has been woeful to this point, leading many to speculate that free agent Craig Kimbrel could soon enter into their plans.

After rallying from an 8-6 deficit to walkoff the Phillies on Tuesday, the Nats got a fine outing from Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday. The big righty shutout the Mets on just three hits over 6.2 innings with nine strikeouts while walking just one batter. Four Nats relievers then kept New York off the scoreboard.

Washington’s “Big Three” starters Scherzer, Strasburg and Patrick Corbin have combined to allow just 40 hits over their first 43.2 innings with 58 strikeouts. In the bullpen, closer Sean Doolittle has allowed no runs and four hits over his first 4.1 innings across four appearances.

At the plate, third baseman Anthony Rendon is making his pitch for a big payday. The 28-year-old will become a free agent following this season if the Nationals cannot re-sign him before then. He has begun the year slashing .433/.528/.967 with four homers, nine RBI and a dozen runs scored. Veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has eight RBI.

Key injuries: The Nationals suffered a huge blow to their starting lineup when shortstop Trea Turner was lost to a broken finger suffered when he used bad form in squaring to bunt and was hit by Zach Eflin last Tuesday. The multi-talented 25-year-old is out for an indeterminate length that could be anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months. The big lefty bat of first baseman Matt Adams is day-to-day with back spasms.

Upcoming: This will be ‘Pennsylvania Week’ for the Nationals. Washington heads up I-95 to visit Harper and the Phillies for three games at Citizens Bank Park beginning tonight. After that they enjoy an off-day on Thursday before hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend at Nationals Park.

 

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