Series Preview: Mets @ Atlanta Braves

The New York Mets move into Dixie this weekend knowing that they need to do well just to survive in the NL East. It's only May, you say? Yes, but the Mets invade Ted Turner Field where they have not fared well at all since its construction, knowing that they need to win two of three or else it's more than likely sayonara for 2003.

They come in trailing the Bravos by 10 ½ games. They are a battered team; with their offensive and spiritual leader, Mike Piazza , possibly done for the season with a severe groin injury.

But there is hope. There is an abundance of youth, which is producing. Jason Phillips has been the most impressive of the youngsters thus far; he of the wraparound glasses and line-drives He has inherited the first base job, at least for the time being, because Mo Vaughn is now on the 60-day disabled list and Tony Clark's BA is below the Mendoza line.

Vance Wilson is Piazza's replacement and he now has the opportunity he has been waiting for: to catch on a fulltime basis. Ty Wigginton has been impressive all season, and is expected to continue his progress. Jae Seo's early outings have entrenched him in the starting rotation. He has pitched some pressure-packed, gutsy games and has impeccable control. He will oppose all-time Met killer Greg Maddux in game #3 of the series on Sunday.

We are getting ahead of ourselves, however pitching should be the name of the game this weekend. Game #1 features a rejuvenated Steve Trachsel (2-2), opposing the Braves Russ Ortiz. Trax has been on track in his recent starts and pitched a gem his last time out. He is 6-9 lifetime against Atlanta, while Ortiz has handled the Mets well, to the tune of a 6-2 slate. Trachsel has become a gamer who dosen't seem to get flustered when the Mets don't score for him. He simply goes out and does his best to hold the opposition down. This undertaking will be monumental against Bobby Cox's line-up.

Rafael Furcal and the brilliant Marcus Giles have been setting the table for the big guns: Gary Sheffield and the Jones Gang, Chipper and Andruw. A couple of old timers are making their presence felt as well. Vinny Castilla and Javy Lopez just might have discovered the mythical fountain of youth.

Lopez slimmed down considerably in the off season, dropping some 30 pounds, which has added lightning to his bat speed. He already has 10 homeruns, and could be on the way to a huge season. Same with Castilla, who has been red hot of late. Robert Fick, acquired from Detroit, fills in ably at first base. It is a strong, dominating line-up.

Offensively, the Mets counter with a makeshift roster, which now has Roberto Alomar at second, with a combination of Roger Cedeno, Timo Perez , Cliff Floyd and Raul Gonzalez in the outfield. The aforementioned Wilson, Phillips and Wigginton, catch, play first and third respectively, with Jack of All Trades, Joe McEwing currently playing short. For all its hits and misses, this team did manage to win two of three against a tough Phillies team this week.

Nevertheless, the Mets record of 21-26 pales against the Atlanta ledger of 31-15. Trachsel on Friday, Tom Glavine on Saturday and Seo on Sunday will simply have to outpitch Ortiz, rookie Horacio Ramirez and Maddux, for the Mets to be successful. Also there cannot be any defensive letdowns. These Braves take advantage of every mistake, and the Mets will have to keep errors of commission and those of omission to a minimum.

The Braves can be taken. If Trachsel can outduel Ortiz, the Mets stock goes up. Glavine should best the youngster Ramirez and Greg Maddux is no longer the Greg Maddux of seasons past. He has gotten simply torched more often than not this season, and carries an inflated 5.54 ERA into the weekend set. The Mets could light him up as well.

With it all said and done, the New York goal is a simple one. Take two of three in Dixie and get the Braves to take them seriously. Easier said than done? We shall see.

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories