This article originally appeared on MLB.com: 5 bets to consider for Mets-Braves Sunday Night showdown
Tonight features the final Sunday Night Baseball matchup of the regular season, and boy is it a big one. The Mets will wrap up a three-game series in Atlanta with first place in the NL East on the line.
The Mets started this series with a one-game cushion, but they’ve lost the first two games to fall one game behind the Braves in the standings. The season series now stands at nine games apiece, so whoever wins tonight’s contest will officially own the head-to-head tiebreaker. That could be extremely important. If the Mets win, they’ll be back in control of their own destiny heading into the final series of the year, while the Braves can push their magic number to one if they finish off the sweep. The winner of the NL East will get a first-round bye, so the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Who has the edge in this matchup? Let’s dive into five of my favorite wagers on DraftKings Sportsbook.
The pressure has been solely on the Mets during the first two games of this series. They needed just one win to secure a win in the season series, and they had two of the best pitchers in baseball on the mound in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. However, neither pitcher had their best stuff, and they were unable to navigate the Braves’ imposing lineup.
Now, the pressure shifts to the Braves. They now own the lead, and they can virtually win the division with a victory on Sunday night. They also have an “easier” matchup against Chris Bassitt, so they’re favored for the first time all series.
Still, Bassitt is far from a pushover. He may not be deGrom or Scherzer, but he has given the Mets quality innings all season. He’s pitched to a 3.27 ERA and a 3.34 xERA across 29 starts, and he’s been one of their most consistent pitchers. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight of his past 10 starts, solidifying his status as one of the best No. 3 starters in the league.
On the other side, the Braves will hand the ball to Charlie Morton. He’s nearly 39 years old, but that didn’t stop the Braves from giving him a contract extension before the start of this series. Unfortunately, Morton has not looked like the same pitcher of late. He’s allowed four earned runs or more in three of his past four starts, and the Mets offense has the potential to get to him. They rank third in wRC+ against right-handed pitchers this season, although their offense is a bit weaker than usual without Starling Marte.
Ultimately, I’m willing to back Bassitt as a slight underdog in this matchup. This race has been so compelling over the past few months that it seems natural for the two teams to head into the final series of the year with identical records.
If the Mets are going to win this game, they’re likely going to need to get on the board early. They’ve been one of the best first-inning offenses in baseball this season, scoring a run in 32.91% of their contests. That’s tied with the Twins for the fifth-best mark in the league. They’ve been using Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil as their top four hitters recently, which is an extremely formidable group against right-handed pitchers.
Morton has also been vulnerable in first innings. He’s pitched to a 5.70 ERA in the opening stanza before settling in over the next few innings. He’s struggle with both walks and homers in that frame, and the Mets are capable of scoring runs in multiple ways. They have some pop with Alonso and Lindor, while Nimmo and McNeil are both excellent at grinding out at-bats.
Vogelbach was brought in at the trade deadline to give the Mets a bit more power from the left side, but that hasn’t exactly gone to plan. He’s hit just five homers in 137 at-bats with the Mets after launching 12 in 237 at-bats with the Pirates.
Still, Vogelbach is a clear power threat. He’s absolutely massive – he looks like he could play nose tackle in the NFL – so he can hit them as far as anyone.
Morton has also struggled with the long ball against left-handed batters this season. He’s allowed an average of 1.74 homers per nine innings in that split, and opposing lefties have managed a .430 slugging percentage against him. If Vogelbach can square one up in this matchup, he’s got a chance to put it over the wall.
Escobar hasn’t just been hot recently, he’s been absolutely scorching. He’s posted a .327 batting average since the start of the September, and his eight homers in that time frame are nearly as many as he’s had the rest of the year combined. Add it all up, and Escobar owns a 180 wRC+ over the past month.
With Morton struggling, it’s a great spot for Escobar to get back in the hit column on Sunday. Escobar also has the added benefit of being a switch-hitter, so he’ll have the splits advantage over whoever follows Morton out of the Braves’ bullpen. He’s been passable against both left- and right-handed pitchers this season, so he’s a tough player to gameplan against.
All of our previous bets are Mets-leaning, so let’s go all the way in. If the Mets can get on the board early, there’s a very good chance that Morton is not asked to pitch deep into this game. The Braves have an excellent bullpen, ranking third in the league with a 2.98 ERA, and they’ve already been trusted to get some big outs in this series. They limited the Mets to just one run over four innings after Max Fried left Friday’s game with an illness, and they racked up four more scoreless innings on Saturday.
Given the importance of this game, don’t be surprised if manager Brian Snitker has a quick hook with Morton. He’s recorded 16 outs or fewer in three straight games, including one game where he was pitching really well. I like his chances of making it four in a row on Sunday.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
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