Media by Associated Press - Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley celebrates after hitting a home run against the Washington Nationals in the eighth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 10, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Media by Associated Press – Atlanta Braves’ Austin Riley celebrates after hitting a home run against the Washington Nationals in the eighth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 10, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The National League East race wasn’t close for the first three months of the season, but now the defending champion Atlanta Braves (52-35) are healthy and chasing down the New York Mets (53-33).

The Braves host the Mets this week with a chance to take over the division lead for the first time all season. The opener at Truist Park in Atlanta will be at 7:20 p.m. ET Monday, airing nationally on FS1.

The Mets have a 1.5 game lead and send RHP Max Scherzer (5-1, 2.26) to the mound against Atlanta LHP Max Fried (9-2, 2.52). The season series is even 2-2, with the May series played in New York. Last year the Braves won the series 10-9, and they won 7-3 in 2020.

Mad Max Tries to Extend Mets Lead

The Mets lost to Miami 2-0 in 10 innings on Sunday to end a brief homestand at 2-2. They are 6-4 in the last ten games and 11-9 in the last 20. New York is 25-18 on the road this season, 18-14 against LHP, and 26-11 against the NL East.

The Mets were shutout by Sandy Alcantara and the Marlins on Sunday, collecting seven hits but leaving ten on base. Luis Guillorme had three hits, while Mark Canha had a hit and two walks. All seven of New York’s hits were singles, and they hit into two double plays.

All-Star Jeff McNeil leads the Mets with a .311 average, with Guillorme at .303. Pete Alonso had a home run in the Marlins series, his 23rd of the season, and he leads New York with 70 RBI. Francisco Lindor homered on Friday and Saturday and has 15 on the season to go with 60 RBI.

Scherzer came off the injured list last week and pitched for the first time since May 18. He took a no-decision in Cincinnati but struck out 11 batters and allowed just two hits over six shutout innings. Before being injured, he was 5-1 with 59 strikeouts and 11 walks in 49 ⅔ innings this season.

Scherzer did not face the Braves in May. Last year he took two no-decisions against them in the regular season and another one in the NLCS. Ronald Acuna is 7-for-20 with two homers against Scherzer, while Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud also have two home runs.

Atlanta Charging Toward First

Atlanta finished a sweep of Washington on Saturday, and they are 6-1 on the current homestand. The Braves are 22-8 in their last 30 games and have picked up nine games on the Mets since May 1. They are 30-18 at home this season, 31-26 against RHP, and 18-11 against the NL East.

Austin Riley delivered the walk-off hit in the 12th for the Braves on Saturday as he finished 3-for-6 with a home run and three RBI. All-Star Dansby Swanson also had three hits, while All-Star William Contreras was 2-for-4.

Swanson leads the team with a .302 average, while Riley is batting .282 with a team-best 23 home runs. Ozuna has 17 homers while Swanson has 14, and Matt Olson has 13. Since coming off the IL, Acuna is batting .274 with eight homers, 22 RBI, and 36 runs scored.

Fried was named an All-Star on Sunday, and he is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA in his last seven starts. Last time out, he beat St. Louis with six shutout innings, allowing five hits and striking out four. He beat the Mets on May 2 with two runs allowed on four hits over six innings while striking out six.

Fried has allowed two homers to Alonso and one each to Canha and Lindor. However, Lindor is just 1-for-12 against the lefty, and Alonso is 4-for-21. Canha is 2-for-3 against Fried, Luis Guillorme is 2-for-4, and Marte is 4-for-11.

Betting Analysis

  • New York Mets +1.5 (-200) Moneyline -105
  • Atlanta Braves -1.5 (+170) Moneyline -115
  • Total Runs 7 Over -120. Under +100

This should be quite the series, and these teams still have 12 games head-to-head between August 6 and October 2. With their aces on the mound, both teams will look to send a message in Monday’s opener.

The Braves are on a roll at home to start July with two series wins but expect this one to be low scoring.

Betting Pick: Under 7.0 runs (+100)

Keep up with your latest MLB news coverage and betting pick previews at NJ Sportsbook.

Barry Devoe can regularly be found rocking the sticks on League of Legends, Rocket League, and CS:GO, but he loves his traditional sports as well. Barry is a Chicago sports fan through and through, but his knowledge of the game is second-to-none. When he's not watching or playing, he works as a baseball umpire and football referee.

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