Another offensive slump has been too much to overcome, leaving the Atlanta Braves on the verge of being eliminated from postseason contention for the first time since 2011.
They aren't likely to catch a break at the plate in a matchup with the New York Mets' rookie of the year candidate.The free-falling Braves will try to avoid their 11th loss in 13 games Sunday, while Jacob deGrom looks to lead the Mets to their first sweep at Atlanta in seven years.Atlanta (76-78) ranks near the bottom of the majors with 3.6 runs per game and a .242 batting average, but the club has been even worse during its current 5-14 stretch, averaging 2.1 runs while hitting .216.Emilio Bonifacio led the Braves with two hits Saturday after going 3 for 30 in his previous 14 games, while Freddie Freeman drove in the only runs with an eighth-inning single in a 4-2 defeat."It's the same story, different day," Freeman said. "It's hard to win ballgames when you only score two runs."The Braves will be eliminated from the NL wild-card chase with any combination of two Pittsburgh wins or Atlanta losses. They'll face another tough challenge as they try to avoid getting swept at home by the Mets for the first time since Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2007.DeGrom (8-6, 2.68 ERA) is a serious contender for top NL rookie honors after going 7-1 with a 1.81 ERA over his last 11 starts. Only Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb (1.61) and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (1.75) have better ERAs since July 8.After allowing no earned runs in three consecutive starts, the right-hander didn't get a decision Monday when he gave up three runs over seven innings in a 6-5 loss to Miami.DeGrom, however, tied a major league record set by Houston's Jim Deshaies in 1986 by striking out the first eight batters he faced. He went on to finish with a career-high 13 strikeouts while walking only one."Once I get two strikes on a guy -- it's 1-2 or 0-2 -- I'm trying to strike them out," deGrom told MLB's official website.Six days after he allowed three runs over five innings in a 3-1 loss at Atlanta, the 26-year-old struck out 11 Braves over seven shutout innings in an 8-3 victory at Citi Field on July 8.Chris Johnson (3 for 5), B.J. Upton (3 for 5) and Jason Heyward (3 for 6) have had success against deGrom. Heyward hopes to return to the lineup after missing two games with a bruised left thumb.Ervin Santana (14-9, 3.74) may not have room for error as he looks to bounce back from back-to-back defeats. He allowed two runs and three hits over six innings Monday, but received nothing from the offense in a 4-2 loss to Washington. The right-hander had been 7-0 with a 2.91 ERA in his previous eight starts at Turner Field.Now Santana makes his fourth start versus New York this season after going 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA over the first three. In his only home meeting, he surrendered three hits over eight shutout innings in a 4-3 win April 9.Daniel Murphy has gone 4 for 9 against him in 2014, but Curtis Granderson is 1 for 9. Granderson, who hit his 19th home run Saturday, has gone 7 for 18 with three homers in his last four games in Atlanta.
The Atlanta Braves' swing-and-miss-percentage against fastballs on the inner third of the strike-zone is 16.2, the third-highest rate in the league this season. Jacob deGrom's swing-and-miss-percentage against fastballs on the inner third of the strike-zone is 15.9 percent, which is 2.6 percentage points higher than league average.
Ervin Santana throws his slider at a rate of 34.1 percent, the fourth-highest frequency among qualifying pitchers in the league this season. The Mets are batting .196 against righties in at-bats that end with a slider, the fourth-lowest average in the league this season.