Mets and Braves, short-handed NL East rivals, start series

MLB

The New York Mets spent the final three games of a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies honing a formula that might allow them to tread water while waiting for a bevy of injured players to return to action.

Starting Friday, the Atlanta Braves might need to do the same thing.

The pair of undermanned National League East rivals will look to continue the adjustment process Friday, when the Mets are scheduled to host the Braves in the opener of a three-game series.

Taijuan Walker (3-1, 2.05 ERA) is expected to come off the injured list for the Mets and oppose Ian Anderson (4-1, 2.82) in a battle of right-handers.

The Mets closed out a four-game series win over the visiting Rockies with a doubleheader sweep Thursday, when Jose Peraza homered in a 1-0 win in the opener and had the go-ahead RBI single in a 4-2 victory in the second game. The Braves were off Thursday after falling 9-5 to the host Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.

The Mets have 17 players on the injured list, including six Opening Day position players, four center fielders and, as of Thursday, three-fifths of their optimal rotation. With lineup mainstays Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis, Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo not expected back for weeks, New York will have to piece together wins as it did against the Rockies, whom it outscored 8-3 in the three wins.

In Thursday’s second game, Jonathan Villar drew a leadoff walk, went to third on a single by Francisco Lindor and scored on Billy McKinney’s double play. The Mets loaded the bases via double, a hit batsman and a walk before Peraza’s RBI single in the fourth. In the sixth, they drew two bases-loaded walks.

“I think we’re putting more balls in play,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “I think we have a faster team, so there’s different things that you can do. You can hit-and-run, you can steal a bag, you can go first to third like Villar did. I think we know our identity and I think that’s why we’re clicking — finding ways to score enough runs to back up our pitching.”

The Braves, who are expected to be without catcher Travis d’Arnaud (thumb) until late summer, dodged a pair of injury scares earlier this month when superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. was hit on the hand by a pitch and tweaked his ankle trying to leg out an infield hit.

Atlanta appeared to be hitting its stride with four straight wins by a combined score of 39-4 before Wednesday, when Marcell Ozuna broke two fingers on his left hand sliding into third base.

Ozuna, who led the NL in homers and RBIs and finished third in batting average last season, is expected to miss a minimum of six weeks.

“That’s half of our Silver Sluggers that we had,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But we’ll figure it out. It’s going to be an opportunity for somebody to do something really good.”

Walker tossed three scoreless one-hit innings against the Braves on May 17 before leaving with a sore right side. Walker is 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts against the Braves.

Anderson earned the win May 21, when he threw six scoreless innings in the Braves’ 20-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Anderson lost his lone start against the Mets last Sept. 19, when he gave up three runs over 4 2/3 innings as Atlanta fell, 7-2.

–Field Level Media

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