Mets vs Braves 5 game showdown could reshape NL balance of power

Time to find out a few things.

If golf has its traditional “move day” — Saturday, the third round of most tournaments — then consider this Major League Baseball move weekend. Oh, a three-, four-, or five-game streak by itself won’t affect a 162-game sample enough, especially in August, but a quintet of back-to-back series this weekend will sort through a significant amount of emotional baggage for both teams , as well as for observers. .

Who do you have – Steve Cohen’s money or Atlanta’s unbridled spirit? In five games at Citi Field, we may find out.

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What the hell were the Yankees thinking trading a mid-rotation starter before the long haul? The Cardinals — and Jordan Montgomery — have an immediate chance to show it was a reckless move.

Are the AL Central contenders worth our time? And will the Padres’ latest nuclear option — destroying their farm system — do more to them than just the Dodgers’ hermanito down south?

Let’s explore.

Jacob deGrom is slated to start Sunday against the Braves.

Braves-Mets: Don’t look back

That will be good.

The Mets have been atop the NL East since April 12, and since they hold a 3 ½-game lead, only the unthinkable — a five-game sweep of the Braves — could change that on Sunday. But it’s not so much the jockeying in August as it is a long stretch in the ring for two sparring partners who mostly looked at each other from afar during the first half in which the Mets were solid nearly every week, and the Braves. unstoppable since a June flurry overturned an early championship hangover.

Game to watch: Sunday. Nothing better symbolizes what will lead these teams to the World Series than a matchup between dominant rookie Spencer Strider and rebounding ace Jacob de Grom, who will be making his second start of the season after missing the first four months of the season with a shoulder stress. .

Along with rookie center fielder Michael Harris, Strider revitalized a Braves team that was 23-27 on May 31 and 40-15 since. It’s clear Strider doesn’t fear anyone: Since June 26, he’s posted a 2.06 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 39 ⅓ innings. In that span, he threw six scoreless innings against both the Dodgers and Cardinals and twice held the Phillies to one run in more than six innings.

De Grom looked largely dominant, but went just five innings in his season debut in Washington. Coming off healthy back-to-back starts on regular rest would be a big enough win for the Mets.

follow: The teams meet four more times starting Aug. 15 in Atlanta and not again until the penultimate series of the season.

Brandon Drury, Manny Machado and Juan Soto celebrate the Padres' win on Wednesday.

Brandon Drury, Manny Machado and Juan Soto celebrate the Padres’ win on Wednesday.

Padres-Dodgers: Emotional save

It seemed like these teams met every other week through the first half of 2021, with each game an emotional rollercoaster, but ultimately just an exercise in Dodger dominance: They went 12-7 against San Diego en route to 106 wins while the Padres were shutout in October.

This time, though, the Padres are bringing Soto to the party and are in contention for a wild-card spot, with eyes on moving up a slot and securing home field advantage in that best-of-three round . Dodgers? Nothing will affect their 11 ½ game lead, though it might be nice to get back into the heads of their “rivals” before a potential playoff game.

Game to watch: Sunday. It’s on national television, Sunday Night Baseball the last bit of real estate that could capture the attention of the sports nation, and a perfect time for Soto to show off on the field where he won the Home Run Derby last month. Any playoff run by the Padres will follow a path paved by pitchers Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, and the veteran Darvish will get the ball.

follow: Six more dates at Petco Park and another three-game streak in a month at Dodger Stadium. Keep an eye out for Aug. 29-Sept. 14, when the Padres play 11 of 14 against the Dodgers, Giants and Mariners, an extended test for their revamped roster.

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Yankees-Cardinals: You again?

A fairly entertaining interleague showdown is spiced up by the fact that the Yankees’ No. 4 starter just three days ago will now try to beat them, wondering what it’s worth to fall from a 70-36 playoff shoo-in to 55 -48. wild card position.

No, the Jordan Montgomery Revenge Game might not spawn a Netflix limited series, but a strong showing against the club that changed him, despite gobbling up quality innings for the most part, is sure to incite a few scratches at New York.

Game to watch: Saturday. Is Montgomery the guy who delivered seven quality starts in his last 13 outings for New York, including a 6 ⅓ inning, two-run performance at the pesky Astros on July 21? Or is he headed for regression, likely to be left off any playoff roster and the Yankees better off without him? Montgomery, traded for injured Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader, has an immediate chance to prove them wrong.

follow: While the Cardinals will battle the bully this weekend, their division and wild card fate will be determined by their ability to hit some tomato cans: There are just seven games left with Milwaukee and 29 of their last 54 vs. of Reds, Pirates, Cubs and Nationals.

Blue Jays-Twins: Open the presents

Minnesota’s low-key but effective trade deadline — adding starter Tyler Mahle, All-Star goaltender Jorge Lopez and reliever Michael Fulmer — could be among the most impactful in the game. As is often the case, the AL Central resembles a pillow fight, but the 55-49 Twins are equipped to build one- and two-game leads over the Guardians and White Sox, who zipped, zero, almost nada at the deadline . .

Game to watch: Friday. It will be former Twins Jose Berrios against Mahle and a prime chance for Minnesota to prove that they “won” the last two trade deadlines. The Twins’ struggles in 2021 prompted the trade for Berrios, who dominated at times in Toronto but generally posted a 4.53 ERA in what is now a full season — 33 starts — in Toronto. The Blue Jays signed him to a seven-year, $131 million extension after spending prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson to acquire him.

Mahle, the former Cincinnati Red, can be just as inconsistent, but he also has the kind of swing-and-miss stuff (114 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings) the Twins have lacked in their two decades of playoff futility. Now he gets his “welcome to a pennant race” moment.

follow: The Blue Jays are playing better than almost any wild card hopeful and aim to avoid Seattle for home field advantage in the best-of-three round. A season-defining stretch for the Twins looms — a 19-game gauntlet against the Astros, Giants, Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees and Guardians beginning on August 23rd.

Astros-Guardians: football season?

Apparently a lot of Cleveland sports fans are ready to hug Deshaun Watson despite a mountain of accusations against him. The crowd may not be entertained by a contending baseball team anytime soon.

Are The Guardians a legitimate contender or just treading water at 54-50? The lack of movement from the front office could indicate that they believe it’s the latter. Four games against the AL could prove that.

Game to watch: Thursday. Justin Verlander vs. Zach Plesac is an overachiever in the truest sense of the word, but will provide a barometer for the types of games Cleveland needs to win to stay in this — the odds are significantly stacked against them.

follow: While the Astros adjust and figure out how to secure a first-round bye, Cleveland can’t directly watch the Twins until seven games into September. The Guardians had better not be buried this weekend to begin the final two dangerous months.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mets vs. Braves Could Reshape MLB Standings; Juan Soto faces the Dodgers.

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