ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball betting festivities head to the Big Apple this weekend for an NL East clash of two tremendous rivals. The New York Mets will duke it out with the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves still think that they can run down the Washington Nationals atop the NL East, but their bigger problem is still just making the playoffs. They are comfortably in right now, but there are only a few games of safe against charging teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Part of the success of Atlanta of late is thanks to the solid pitching of Ben Sheets. It was a total shot in the dark to bring Sheets into the Peach State this year, and it has worked in a big time way. The righty is 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA. Batters are hitting .258 against him, and his WHIP of 1.19 is remarkable. Sheets is striking out batters as well, as he has 23 Ks in 32.0 innings of work, a very respectable mark for a starting pitcher. Sheets’ first start since coming back to the bigs after a full year’s absence came against these Mets, and he threw six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk in the process. He’ll have the ability to get the job done for sure this time around as well, though it is going to take a lot of help from his teammates to pick up his fifth victory, too.
Meanwhile, the Mets have fallen off the face of the earth and went from a team that was truly in contention to one that might as well have just sold all of its assets at the deadline. The good news for the Mets though, is that they have one of their best pitchers on the mound on Sunday in the form of Jonathon Niese. No, Niese isn’t doing nearly as well as R.A. Dickey is, but he does have a respectable 8-6 record and a 3.82 ERA. Niese also has 116 strikeouts in 136.2 frames, and he has held batters down to just a .242 average, 31 points off of his career marks. Over the course of his last three starts, two of the efforts have been lousy at best for Niese, as he conceded eight runs (six earned) against the Arizona Diamondbacks and four runs in six innings against the Miami Marlins in his most recent outing.
Do you quite believe in Sheets yet? We just don’t have that much confidence that this is anything more than a flash in the pan for the Braves. Sure, Atlanta is going to be a team that will get into the playoffs this year, but Niese is a solid pitcher, and with the eyes of the baseball world watching on Sunday, we think that New York will be able to post a victory over one of its biggest rivals. New York 5 – Atlanta 3