5 things to watch as Mets and Braves play four-game series

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Francisco Lindor Starling Marte celebrate after win over Phillies at Citi Field May 2022
Francisco Lindor Starling Marte celebrate after win over Phillies at Citi Field May 2022

Here are five things to watch when the Mets and Atlanta Braves play a four-game series at Citi Field starting Monday...

First look at Atlanta

The Braves have had an uneven start to the season, with a 10-13 record and a run differential (-14) that suggests their record so far is not a fluke.

Atlanta played most of those games without Ronald Acuña, Jr. (more on him below) and recently lost Eddie Rosario for the next few months. Meanwhile, some of their most important pitchers -- including Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson -- have struggled early on.

Still, the expectation remains that the Braves will be the Mets' biggest roadblock when it comes to NL East supremacy in 2022. And with Atlanta fresh off a World Series title and a roster that once again has a chance to do something special, this series will be the latest early-season test for the Mets after they passed prior tests against the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, and Philadelphia Phillies.

Red-hot Jeff McNeil

One of the easiest predictions to make this offseason when looking ahead to the Mets' season, was that McNeil -- coming off a down 2021 season after being a very good hitter from 2018 to 2020 during his first three seasons in the league -- would again be a very good hitter.

And McNeil has been just that and more.

In 21 games this season, McNeil is slashing .361/.418/.528 with seven doubles, one triple, one homer, and 10 RBI. He has been especially scorching lately, with five multi-hit games in his last six, including a 4-for-5 night on Sunday.

Ronald Acuña Jr. is back

As noted above, Acuña, who missed most of last season after tearing his ACL, is back.

He hasn't hit the ground running, with just two hits in his first 13 at-bats to go along with six strikeouts. But it's just a matter of time before Acuña starts punishing baseballs again.

The Mets will hope Acuña doesn't have a full awakening against them, but he has hit well during his career at Citi Field, with a .288/.353/.505 slash line with five homers, seven doubles, and one triple in 122 plate appearances over 26 games.

Is Pete Alonso about to break out?

Alonso has cooled off considerably -- especially in the power department -- after a torrid start that included three homers in the Mets' first 10 games.

He has only one extra-base hit since April 17 (a homer on Friday night against the Phillies), and is hitting just .250/.320/.420 with four homers in 23 games this season.

While his power has been in hibernation lately, Alonso isn't striking out much (just five K's in his last 26 plate appearances) and has continued to get on base regularly despite the extra-base hit dip. Alonso is also barreling balls up at an above average rate and is still hitting the ball hard. So a breakout could be coming soon.

Mets' bullpen should be set up well

Following their combined no-hitter on Friday, the Mets were able to give Edwin Diaz and Drew Smith two days of rest, and only used Seth Lugo once. Meanwhile, Trevor May has pitched just once since April 25.

So the Mets' bullpen should be in good shape for the series against the Braves, which will be extra important since there is a doubleheader on Tuesday and a roster crunch from 28 to 26 on Monday that will mean the loss of a reliever.

Aside from Adam Ottavino's hiccup on Saturday, the bullpen has performed very well lately. And New York will be in good position to maintain that level of performance against Atlanta.