The New York Mets and Atlanta Braves took different approaches in the final hours before the trade deadline earlier this week.
On Thursday night, the first referendum on how they fared arrives when the Mets host the Braves in the opener of a key five-game series between the first- and second-place teams in the National League East.
Carlos Carrasco (11-4, 3.79 ERA) is slated to start for the Mets against Kyle Wright (13-4, 2.93 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.
The Mets extended their lead over the Braves to 3 1/2 games on Wednesday, when New York beat the host Washington Nationals 9-5 and Atlanta fell to the visiting Philadelphia Phillies 3-1.
The Mets, who have won eight of their past nine games, concluded a month of at-the-margins moves on Wednesday by acquiring right-handed reliever Mychal Givens from the Chicago Cubs and obtaining right-handed-batting Darin Ruf from the San Francisco Giants.
New York plans to use Ruf in a platoon at designated hitter with Daniel Vogelbach, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 22. Vogelbach delivered the key hit on Wednesday, a fifth-inning grand slam.
The Mets' designated hitters entered Wednesday ranked 19th in the majors in OPS (.677), tied for 24th in homers (10) and 24th in batting average (.220). however, Vogelbach has an .823 career OPS against right-handers, off whom he has 56 homers in 923 career at-bats. Ruf, meanwhile, has a .929 OPS with 39 homers in 553 at-bats against left-handers.
"We feel we've been able to really add, using two roster spots, an impact bat for us," Mets general manager Billy Eppler said Tuesday. "We were able to strengthen the club today and kind of over the last couple weeks, so we feel good about how things transpired."
The defending World Series champion Braves were among the busiest teams on Monday and Tuesday, when they acquired outfielder Robbie Grossman, reliever Raisel Iglesias and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi from the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros, respectively.
While the left-handed-hitting Grossman is expected to help an outfield that ranks 22nd in the majors in OPS (.679) and 24th in batting average (.226), the additions of Iglesias and Odorizzi bolstered areas of strength.
Atlanta's relief corps is ranked among the top five in saves (second with 36), strikeouts (fourth with 416) and ERA (fifth at 3.21) while the club's starters are fourth in strikeouts (593) and 10th in ERA (3.79).
The Braves hope the reinforcements will further boost an already surging squad. Atlanta has the best record in the majors at 40-15 since June 1, a span in which it has shaved seven games off the Mets' division lead.
"After the All-Star break, this thing starts throttling forward and this is what it's all about," Braves manager Brian Snitker said Wednesday.
Carrasco earned his 100th career win last Saturday, when he allowed four hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings as the Mets beat the Miami Marlins 4-0. He is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three career games (two starts) against the Braves. He beat Atlanta on May 3 with eight innings of shutout ball.
Wright won his sixth straight decision on Friday after surrendering two runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings as the Braves defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-2.
Wright is 1-3 with a 6.17 ERA in six games (five starts) against the Mets. He lost to Carrasco and the Mets on May 3 as he yielded three runs in seven innings.
--Field Level Media