Mets-Braves Preview

Jacob deGrom is back, and his mind is at ease. The same can't be said for the Atlanta Braves when facing the shaggy-haired right-hander.

With his newborn son's health issues resolved, deGrom takes the ball for the first time in over two weeks looking to continue his dominance of the Braves and help the New York Mets sweep this three-game set Sunday.

DeGrom was solid in his season debut April 8, allowing one run with six strikeouts in six innings of a 7-2 win over Philadelphia. However, he was limited to 76 pitches due to tightness in his right lat.

The injury was also timely with deGrom's wife giving birth to the couple's first child, Jaxon, April 12. A form of apnea that caused Jaxon to stop breathing emerged, and he had to be monitored until it resolved. All three deGroms went home Monday.

"It was definitely scary," deGrom said. "He had to be checked into the NICU and they had to monitor him in there but when all the tests came back and nothing was seriously wrong we were pretty relieved. But at first it was a scary time."

DeGrom tossed a bullpen session Friday at the Mets' spring training facility, but he's not expected to exceed 100 pitches.

"He's great. Once they got the baby home he was very, very relieved," manager Terry Collins told MLB's official website. "He's excited about getting back and to start pitching again."

The Mets (9-7) surely share that sentiment with their vaunted rotation back together, despite winning both times Logan Verrett made spot starts in deGrom's place. The starters have a 2.48 ERA during New York's 7-2 stretch after compiling a 3.76 mark through the first seven games.

There's a good chance that ERA shrinks further since deGrom is 2-1 with a 1.32 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings over his last four starts against Atlanta (4-13).

The Braves have also totaled nine runs during a four-game losing streak - all at home - and have gone 12 straight contests without a homer - the franchise's longest drought since going 13 in a row without a home run in May 1983.

New York's bats are coming around, compiling a .294 average with 23 homers and 5.9 runs per game over the past nine games after posting .187, two and 2.6 through the first seven.

The Mets had a season-high 15 hits in Saturday's 8-2 win at Turner Field.

"I think it's contagious more than anything else," second baseman Neil Walker said. "... Nobody on this team on the offensive side of things feels like they need to carry the load. One through eight we feel like we've got a good chance every time we go out there."

Walker is doing his part with a team-leading seven homers, connecting for six while batting .343 in the past eight games.

"I'm trying to see the ball big, see the ball up in the zone and put the barrel on it," said Walker, who hit a solo shot Saturday.

David Wright has doubled on all three of his hits in this series, connecting for two Saturday with one scoring Travis d'Arnaud and Curtis Granderson. The third baseman is hitting .354 with 14 RBIs in his last 19 meetings with the Braves.

A major league-worst 1-9 at home, Atlanta has a bloated 5.13 ERA at Turner Field and it's now giving the ball to Aaron Blair for his major league debut.

The right-hander was 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 19 innings over three starts for Triple-A Gwinnett, striking out 10 over seven scoreless innings Tuesday.

Blair was acquired in a five-player deal that sent Shelby Miller to Arizona in December.


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