The Atlanta Braves lost a doubleheader Saturday by the aggregate score of 14-2. Were they anything close to being a contender, we'd be wringing hands and gnashing teeth. But they aren't, so why bother? A few thoughts on the long day at STP:
-- By winning twice, the Mets nosed into second place in the National League East. It would be a shock if the Mets don't finish ahead of the Braves. The latter club is without Freddie Freeman, which is a big deal; the former has been missing much of its roster, which is even bigger.
Noah Syndergaard and closer Jeurys Famila mightn't pitch again this season. Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, Travis d'Arnaud and Lucas Duda have spent time on the disabled list. Steven Matz made his first big-league start of the season in Game 2 and went seven tidy innings. Yoenis Cespedes played for the first time since April 28 in Game 1 and hit a grand slam off Luke Jackson.
Even if Thor doesn't return, the Mets could make a push for the second wild card. (As we know, the NL East is awful.) As of Saturday morning, FanGraphs listed the Mets' playoff odds at 12.8 percent ; the Braves, who technically were 1 1/2 games ahead of the Mets, were given odds of 0.3 percent. The New Yorkers have enough talent to make a push; the Cobb Countians do not and will soon start to sell off veterans.
-- Matt Wisler might never be quite good enough. It wasn't so long ago that we considered Wisler almost a fixture in the Braves' admittedly flimsy rotation. His ERA as of May 31, 2016, was 3.16. As of July 28, it 5.16 and he was headed to Gwinnett. He hasn't been the same since.
He started Game 2 and wasn't awful. He was one pitch from getting through five innings without yielding a run. Alas, he walked Michael Conforto on a 3-2 pitch with two out. Then Jose Reyes singled to center, a ball Danny Santana -- in for Ender Inciarte -- bobbled. Wilser fell behind Jay Bruce 2-0 and tried a slow curve. Bruce's three-run homer tore out a row of seats down the right-field line.
Wisler's line: Six innings, four earned runs, six hits, three walks, seven strikeouts. He'd looked better than he had in some relief turns here, but he paled in comparison to the young pitcher who'd worked Game 1 for the Braves. Mike Foltynewicz passed Wisler in the Young Pitcher Pecking Order last summer, and Sean Newcomb could soon do the same. Will there ever again be a place for the Wiz in this rotation?
-- Not sure what Brian Snitker was doing in Game 1. Jackson had been lucky to escape the eighth inning with only one run allowed. He hit Conforto with a pitch. Cespedes lined a hard single to left. Wilmer Flores drove a ball into the gap in right-center than Inciarte ran down. Against teams that don't have Inciarte, that one rolls to the wall and it's 3-0 and the game is gone.
Brandon Phillips' homer in the bottom of the inning made it 2-1. Snitker allowed Jackson to keep working. I guess he was trying to save his bullpen, which needed five men to cover three innings Friday night and was facing the unknown of what Saturday's second game might bring, but against an opponent missing its closer -- the Mets had to bring Addison Reed, the best of what remains, for the final two outs of the eighth -- this was still a winnable game.
Jackson plunked Neil Walker. (That made two HBPs in the span of eight batters.) Juan Lagares doubled to short left. Men on second and third, one out. Snitker had Jackson walk Conforto on purpose to get to Cespedes. Yes, it made it righty-against-righty -- Conforto hits left-handed -- and set up a double play, but still: Cespedes had just singled off Walker an inning earlier, and he doesn't bat third for nothing. On cue, he launched a grand slam to left-center. The game was winnable no more.
--The post-Freeman sag has begun. The Braves have scored eight runs in their past four games. The Mets made three errors in Game 1 -- two by Cabrera in the first inning -- and the Braves couldn't make anything of them. Matt Adams, who had five hits and three homers in the final two games in Cincinnati last weekend, is 6-for-25 over the past six games. Matt Kemp is 10-for-36 with one RBI in June.
We knew it was bound to happen. Well, here it is.
-- On the other hand, Sean Newcomb was really, really good. That was Saturday's big news. In the grand scheme of the Braves' rebuild, it was the only news that mattered.