Mets acquire Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves for two pitchers

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Update (7:13 PM EST): Heyman reports that the deal is official.

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ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports that the Mets and Braves are “close” on a trade that would send Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to New York. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and Joel Sherman of the New York Post also reported that a deal is close.

Uribe, 36, has already been traded this season, as he joined the Braves from the Dodgers in late May along with pitcher Chris Withrow. The Dodgers received Alberto Callaspo, Eric Stults, Ian Thomas, and Juan Jaime from Atlanta. Uribe has hit well in a Braves uniform, posting a .285/.353/.464 triple-slash line with seven home runs and 17 RBI in 167 plate appearances.

Johnson, 33, has played first, second, and third base as well as both corner outfield positions while hitting .275/.321/.451 with nine home runs and 34 RBI in 197 plate appearances.

Sherman reports that the Braves will be receiving “young arms” in the trade, including John Gant. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 3.52 ERA and a 91/36 K/BB ratio over 99 2/3 combined innings between Single-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton.

Update (7:07 PM EST): Per Sherman, Rob Whalen is the other pitcher involved in the deal. The 21-year-old right-hander has a 3.36 ERA with a 61/34 K/BB ratio in 83 innings with Single-A St. Lucie.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.