The Mets bench my longtime nemesis, Jeff Francoeur

6 Comments

For years I moaned every time Jeff Francoeur’s name appeared in the Braves’ lineup (which was every single game between 2005 and 2009, really). The guy couldn’t hit. He was killing my team. I couldn’t complain too much, though, because for reasons known only to John Schuerholz, Frank Wren and God Almighty, the Braves never made an effort to go and get an outfielder who deserved Francoeur’s playing time more than Francoeur himself did.

With Carlos Beltran’s return the Mets aren’t in that situation, however, and now they’ve done what the Braves never would or never could allow themselves to do: they’ve sent Frency to the benchy:

Manager Jerry Manuel met with Francoeur for about 30 minutes Sunday
to discuss what Beltran’s activation would mean for his role on the
team. Both Manuel and Francoeur described the meeting as very positive.

Manuel told reporters before Sunday’s game against the Braves that he
planned to shift Angel Pagan to right field upon Beltran’s return,
displacing Francoeur, who Manuel said would start mostly against
left-handed pitchers.

To Francouer’s credit, he is saying all the right things. Pagan deserves to start. He’ll do his best as a pinch hitter and platoon bat (Frenchy ain’t fantastic against lefties, but he’s hitting them better than Pagan is this year). He’s not going to sit and sulk. In short, he’s being a pro.

This is quite a contrast to the last time Francoeur faced some professional adversity. The Braves sent him down to the minors a few years ago to try and get him to work on not swinging at every pitch he saw (which was quite a damning statement given that the Braves have never placed all that much emphasis on plate discipline). Francoeur’s response: full-blown temper tantrum.  The experiment was supposed to last for several weeks but ended up lasting three days thanks to Francoeur’s sulk-fest. Always tight with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was really no surprise to see the press rally to his side and to see the Braves’ front office cave in.  I had been souring on Frenchy for some time before that, but that incident turned me off him for good.

He’s off my team now and on he’s on my team’s rival so I have no need to really consider Francoeur all that deeply anymore. Yet like someone involved in a bad breakup, I still think about him a lot. Maybe it’s schadenfreude at him hurting the Mets. Maybe it’s just because he’s not causing me direct pain anymore. Whatever it is, I’m starting to soften on the guy.

Indeed, this benching incident — and his response — actually has me thinking nice things about him for the first time in a good four years. For the longest time my biggest beef against Francoeur wasn’t that he was bad per se, it was that he seemed completely unwilling to acknowledge that his game was flawed and that he had anything to learn.  In his response to being benched, however, it seems that he has at least begun to accept reality, and that’s something.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

atlanta braves
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
6 Comments

ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.