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Francisco Alvarez New York Mets

Joel Sherman in the Post:

ATLANTA — Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter both assured that it would be conveyed to Francisco Alvarez not to try to play hero ball. To essentially not see every plate appearance from here until through Game 162 as an audition for not only a postseason roster spot, but perhaps meaningful playoff at-bats. 

So, of course, here was Alvarez — the youngest player currently in the majors at 20 — in the hero position Friday night. Final at-bat of his major league debut. Bases loaded. Ninth inning. One out. Team down three runs. First place in the NL East at stake in Game 157. 

Showalter could have defused this. He could have sent up Daniel Vogelbach to face Braves closer Kenley Jansen. Showalter said Jansen was “neutral” — basically the same results versus lefties and righties. But the stats do not reflect that. Lefties had a .725 OPS this year versus the righty Jansen compared to a .554 for righties. 

The Mets haven’t loved Vogelbach’s at-bats lately. So Showalter decided to save him if the game got two more batters to ninth-place hitter Tomas Nido, who actually had homered in his previous at-bat. Showalter decided his best chance for a blast was with Alvarez. He was looking for Alvarez to, yep, be a hero. 

Jansen had loaded the bases with one out via a hit by pitch (Mark Canha again), a Jeff McNeil single and a walk to Eduardo Escobar. This is not the historic Jansen with a brilliant cutter. But it is still Jansen. It is still a version of his cutter. It was still 40,000-plus in Atlanta screaming. It was still everything that goes into Braves-Mets — just on late-season steroids considering the records and implications. 

Francisco Alvarez
Francisco Alvarez went 0-4 in his MLB debut. 
USA TODAY Sports

“My approach didn’t change,” Alvarez said afterward. 

He fouled off a 92 mph cutter, swung through a 91 mph cutter and flailed for strike three at another 92 mph cutter and for the second time in this game lost control of his bat and had it whirl into the netting to the right of the Mets dugout. He said that only happened once all through his minor league season. 

Tyler Naquin then waged a nine-pitch battle before striking out. No Met proved a hero in a 5-2 loss. Before this game, standing outside the visiting dugout, Steve Cohen had said, “I like where we are. Let’s see if we can finish it.” 

What Cohen and the Mets know now is they can’t finish off an NL East title this weekend. That would have taken a three-game sweep. Now even with two victories, the Mets would leave Atlanta late Sunday night with a magic number of one to clinch their first division championship since 2015. 

But the worst scenario is now in play as well. A sweep by the Braves would mean the Mets no longer control their destiny going into the final three games. Still, the Mets are in the better position through 157 games, though both clubs are now 98-59. 

Normally to take the title away from the champ you have to knock them out. But a draw works for the Mets as long as they win at least one game in this series. That would give them the season series over the defending World Series winners and an NL East title if the clubs complete 162 games with the same record. 

Francisco Alvarez lets go of his bat while swinging.
Francisco Alvarez lets go of his bat while swinging. 
USA TODAY Sports
Francisco Alvarez loses control of his bat as he strikes out. 
AP
Alex Patton Alex
Cal Raleigh Seattle Mariners

Cal Raleigh (C) SEA - Sep. 30
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=15518

Raleigh hit a solo home run in his only at-bat in Friday's 2-1 win over the Athletics.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: Raleigh put an official end to the Mariners' 21-year playoff drought with his walkoff blast in the ninth inning. The catcher entered the game as a pinch hitter for Luis Torrens.

Alex Patton Alex
Max Fried Atlanta Braves

With six divisions and six wild card teams, you would think baseball would have a lot of drama left with six days to go, but in fact it's all right here: Mets and Barves starting tonight.

Mark Sanchez, psyching up Mets fans for the Post:

ATLANTA — Ahead of the most important weekend of the Mets’ season, here is a look at four keys that could decidetheir series against the Braves — and the NL East:

Mets’ aces’ ceilings vs. Braves’ aces’ seasons

There is not a better potential 1-2 in baseball than Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.

There might not have been a better actual 1-2 in baseball in 2022 than Max Fried and Kyle Wright.

DeGrom and Scherzer, with a combined 24 years of big league experience and five Cy Young awards, have been as dominant as advertised — when they pitch. Both have missed significant time because of injuries, and neither qualifies for the ERA title.

The 28-year-old Fried (2.50) and 26-year-old Wright (3.18) have the fourth-best and 13th-best ERAs, respectively, in the league. They have made 29 starts apiece and have been excellent, flanked until recently by rookie Spencer Strider, who is out with an oblique injury, but hopes to return in the postseason.

Will the Mets aces’ careers or the Braves aces’ campaigns prove more important?

Jacob deGrom and Max Fried
Jacob deGrom and Max Fried
AP; USA TODAY Sports

Which offensive approach will work better?

Putting the ball in play will be a challenge. The Mets’ staff has struck out 1,504 hitters this season, the most in baseball. A close No. 2? The Braves, with 1,503.

To counter the many expected Ks, will the Mets’ contact-oriented attack or the Braves’ power matter more?

The Mets’ .332 on-base percentage trails only the Dodgers’ .334. The Mets excel at making contact and clawing their way to first base.

The Braves’ 234 home runs this season are second only to the Yankees’ 243. The power comes from everywhere: Eight Atlanta hitters have swatted at least 15 home runs.

Both approaches work — the Mets and Braves are fourth and third, respectively, in runs scored — but they will be tested against top-shelf pitching.

Can the Mets’ big bats stay hot?

With Starling Marte injured, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor have heated up at the right time.

Alonso has homered in three of his past four games — and nine times in September — and has tallied 10 RBIs in that span, giving him the most in the majors. The first baseman has posted a .924 OPS this month, lifting a lineup that has not been deep recently.

Lindor has helped Alonso carry the weight, with a 13-game hitting streak in which he is batting .333 with 11 RBIs and 10 runs scored.

For the Mets to win, their stars likely will have to play like stars.

Can the Braves’ bullpen stay hot?

Though the Mets still are weeding out who is a reliable reliever and who is not, Atlanta does not share that problem.

The Braves’ bullpen has been the best in baseball by a sizable margin in September, posting a 1.57 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .151 batting average.

Closer Kenley Jansen, after some hiccups earlier this season, has allowed one run in his past seven innings. Raisel Iglesias has not given up an earned run in 11 ²/₃ innings this month. A.J. Minter has struck out 21 in his past 13 ¹/₃ innings. Dylan Lee has let up two hits and no runs in his past 9 ¹/₃ innings.

The Mets’ offense might be better off pouncing on the Braves’ starters rather than trying to wear them down: The guys behind the aces are good, too.

Alex Patton Alex
Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Angels
Jarred KelenicMarcus SemienMitch HanigerShohei OhtaniCarlos Rodon
Jarred KelenicMarcus SemienMitch HanigerShohei OhtaniCarlos Rodon

Sep 29, 2022 Top Performers

Pitchers:

Shohei Ohtani (LAA): 8.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 K, 87 GmSc

Carlos Rodon (SFG): 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 10 K, 78 GmSc

Eric Lauer (MIL): 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 9 K, 74 GmSc

Jeffrey Springs (TBR): 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 5 K, 71 GmSc

Cal Quantrill (CLE): 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 K, 66 GmSc

View All of Yesterday's Pitchers at Baseball-Reference.com

Alex Patton Alex
Jarred Kelenic Seattle Mariners
Jarred KelenicMarcus SemienMitch HanigerShohei OhtaniCarlos Rodon
Jarred KelenicMarcus SemienMitch HanigerShohei OhtaniCarlos Rodon

Sep 29, 2022 Top Performers

Batters:

Jarred Kelenic (SEA): 2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R

Marcus Semien (TEX): 2-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R

Mitch Haniger (SEA): 2-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R

Taylor Ward (LAA): 3-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R

J.D. Martinez (BOS): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R

Wander Franco (TBR): 2-3, 1 R, 2 SB

Javier Baez (DET): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R

Tucker Barnhart (DET): 3-3, 2 RBI, 1 R

Willi Castro (DET): 2-2, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R

Ford Proctor (SFG): 1-2, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R

View All of Yesterday's Batters at Baseball-Reference.com

Alex Patton Alex
Freddy Peralta Milwaukee Brewers

Brewers fall to 5-5 in their last ten but are only a half game back of the Phillies, who have lost 7 of 10.

Freddy Peralta (P) MIL - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=14194

Peralta (4-4) blew the save and took the loss in Thursday's 4-2 loss against Miami. He allowed four runs on three hits and one walk while striking out three over 1.2 innings.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: Peralta entered Thursday's game up 2-0 in the seventh inning as a reliever and set down the side in order but cost the Brewers the game with a mistake to Avisail Garcia in the eighth. The 26-year-old loaded the bases on a couple of hits and a walk, and then Garcia tagged him for a huge grand slam to put the Marlins up 4-2 and saddle Peralta with his fourth loss of the season. When asked about it post-game, manager Craig Counsell defended his decision to use Peralta out of the bullpen, indicating that Peralta may remain a reliever to close the season.

Alex Patton Alex
Julio Rodriguez Seattle Mariners

With less than a week to go and a five-game cushion, "expected" seems a little understated ("series" is wildly overstated) but for many of us, there's still the regular season to play and the three final days could decide it all.

Julio Rodriguez (OF) SEA - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=15064

Rodriguez (back) is slated to return to baseball activities Thursday and continues to aim for activation Monday when first eligible, Brandon Gustafson of 710 ESPN Seattle reports.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: The news comes directly from general manager Jerry Dipoto, who's lending further credence to the possibility of Rodriguez missing the minimal amount of time required by his IL stint. Dipoto added the decision to sideline Rodriguez temporarily was mostly precautionary, and the outfielder has reported feeling better each day thus far. The star rookie's ability to get some at-bats in over the final days of the regular season before the Mariners' expected wild-card series would naturally be a benefit for his timing at the plate, and it would serve as a platform to further corroborate his back is at full health.

Alex Patton Alex
Sean Manaea San Diego Padres

Sean Manaea (P) SD - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=12948

Manaea did not factor into the decision Thursday versus the Dodgers, allowing one run on two hits while striking out three and walking none in four innings.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: Manaea worked behind an opener Thursday, and the role appeared to suit him well. He'd given up five runs across his previous 8.2 innings entering the contest, but he had better results this time despite throwing only 38 of 62 pitches for strikes. The southpaw has a 5.15 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 150:49 K:BB across 152 innings through 29 outings this year, though his second-half struggles likely mean he'll operate out of the bullpen during the Padres' playoff run.

Alex Patton Alex
Eric Lauer Milwaukee Brewers

Tough loss for the Brewer's, who remain a half game behind the Phillies for the last ticket to the postseason.

Eric Lauer (P) MIL - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=14263

Lauer did not factor into the decision against the Marlins Thursday, firing five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and just one hit allowed.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: After needing 66 pitches to get through 2.2 innings in his return from the IL in his last start, Lauer bounced back in a big way by holding Miami to one hit. He needed just 71 pitches to complete five innings and record nine strikeouts, his highest total since July 4. The bullpen went on to blow the game and cost Lauer the win.

Alex Patton Alex
Mitch Haniger Seattle Mariners

He's healthy and ready to play in the Mariners' first playoff game since... 

Ichiro's rookie year.

Mitch Haniger (OF) SEA - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=12491

Haniger went 2-for-5 with a pair of two-run home runs in Thursday's 10-9 win over the Rangers in extra innings.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: Haniger accounted for the Mariners' first four runs, homering in the first and third innings. He's produced multiple hits in four of his last seven games, but the power show is encouraging after he went 25 contests without a homer. The right fielder is up to nine long balls, 31 RBI, 27 runs scored and a .239/.301/.405 slash line through 52 games this year.

Alex Patton Alex
Jon Gray Texas Rangers

Jon Gray (P) TEX - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=12937

Gray allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out five over five innings in a no-decision versus the Mariners on Thursday.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: Gray was back to struggling Thursday after throwing five one-hit innings in his previous start. The 30-year-old gave up two home runs to Mitch Haniger and another long ball to Jarred Kelenic, all of which plated two runs. Gray's ERA spiked to 3.93 with a 1.15 WHIP and 131:39 K:BB through 121.1 innings across 23 starts this year. The right-hander is expected to end his season with a home start versus the Yankees next week.

Alex Patton Alex
Adolis Garcia Texas Rangers

.250 is very respectable when the league batting average is .243.

Adolis Garcia (OF) TEX - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=14541

Garcia went 1-for-5 with a solo home run and an additional run scored in Thursday's 10-9 extra-innings loss to the Mariners.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: Garcia hit just .211 (8-for-38) with a triple, two doubles, four RBI, five runs and a stolen base in 11 games since his last homer. The outfielder has enjoyed a productive 2022 campaign with 26 homers, 25 stolen bases, 97 RBI, 86 runs scored, 31 doubles and five triples in 149 contests. He's also slashed a respectable .250/.301/.454 across 632 plate appearances.

Alex Patton Alex
Tucker Barnhart Detroit Tigers

Tucker Barnhart (C) DET - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=12851

Barnhart went 3-for-3 with a walk, a double, a run scored and two RBI in Thursday's 10-3 win over the Royals.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: Barnhart is batting just .221 this season, but he managed to provide a nice offensive boost Thursday. It was the catcher's fourth three-hit effort of the year and his second this month. Barnhart may see a few more starts in relief of Eric Haase before the season wraps up.

Alex Patton Alex
Dylan Floro Miami Marlins

Dylan Floro (P) MIA - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=14457

Floro picked up the save Thursday against the Brewers. He allowed one walk and no hits with one punchout in a scoreless inning.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: Floro has emerged as Miami's top option in the ninth inning recently and Thursday was no exception. He entered the game up 4-2 in the ninth and worked around a walk to record his ninth save of the season. Over his last 10 appearances dating back to Sept. 9, Floro has recorded six saves while allowing just one earned run over 9.1 innings.

Alex Patton Alex
Javier Assad Chicago Cubs

Javier Assad (P) CHI-N - Sep. 29
https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/player.php?id=15233

Assad (2-2) tossed five scoreless innings to earn the win Thursday against the Phillies. He allowed five hits and two walks, while striking out three.

ROTOWIRE RECOMMENDS: Assad entered the night with a 6.23 ERA across his last four starts, but he looked sharper against Philadelphia and picked up his second win of the season. The rookie was limited to just 80 pitches, as the Cubs seem focused on not pushing the 25-year-old too much in his debut campaign. Assad is lined up to start the season finale Wednesday against the Reds, and he could be in the mix for a rotation spot to begin 2023, depending on what Chicago does in the offseason.

Alex Patton Alex
Ranger Suarez Philadelphia Phillies

Rotoworld:

9.29: Ranger Suárez surrendered two runs over six innings on Thursday in a loss the Cubs. (Suárez was saddled with a tough-luck loss on Thursday afternoon as the
Phillies' offense was unable to get anything going at Wrigley Field. He
struck out five batters and only issued one walk. Patrick Wisdom's
first-inning RBI double and Ian Happ's fifth-inning RBI single accounted
for all of the damage against him. The 27-year-old left-hander will
carry strong 3.37 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 127/56 K/BB ratio across 152 1/3
innings (28 starts) into a road tilt on Tuesday against the Astros in
his final regular season outing.)

Alex Patton Alex
Jeffrey Springs Tampa Bay Rays

Rotoworld:

09.29: Jeffrey Springs allowed just three hits in six shutout innings, but didn't factor into the decision Thursday against the Guardians. (Springs
was outstanding, but he left with the Rays leading by just a run, and
Tampa Bay gave up two in the eighth. The right-hander didn't walk
anyone, and he struck out five in another impressive outing for the
30-year-old. If Tampa Bay doesn't make alterations to the rotation,
he'll take a 2.45 ERA into a start against the Red Sox on Tuesday.)

Alex Patton Alex
Frank Robinson Cleveland Guardians

Only two players since integration have had a traditional and SABRmetric Triple Crown along with leading the league in Runs scored. Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski. Judge has a chance to do it this year and he would also lead the league in walks as well. 

Eugene Freedman EugeneFreed
Luis Arraez Minnesota Twins

The only one who can prevent a traditional and SABRmetric Triple Crown at this point, Arraez has not given up. He went 2-4 today and is back up to .315. 

Eugene Freedman EugeneFreed
Aaron Judge New York Yankees

The New York Post:

“I would never ever bring a glove other than this situation,” Frankie Lasagna, caught on camera grabbing his head after missing out on the catch told the Canadian Press. “I needed a bigger one.”

The longball, a 394-foot two-run shot in the top of the seventh, put the Yankees ahead, 5-3. Lasagna, a restaurant owner, bought his front-row ticket with designs on catching the historic ball.

“In the front row I felt like you’ve got the best chance,” he said. “Lo and behold, I was just a few feet away.”

On fan in Toronto didn't take kindly to missing Aaron Judge's 61st homer.
On fan in Toronto didn’t take kindly to missing Aaron Judge’s 61st homer.
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Alex Patton Alex

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