Friday, April 18, 2014

Young to return to lineup vs. Harang, Braves

Chris Young is ready to get his season started. A right quadriceps injury kept him out of the Mets' lineup for nearly three weeks, but he will finally retake his place in New York's lineup on Friday against Atlanta.

Braves right-hander and former Met Aaron Harang will pitch opposite Jon Niese as Atlanta tries to avenge a series loss to New York at Turner Field last week. Harang has been stellar so far this season, allowing just two earned runs over his first 18 2/3 innings for the Braves.

With Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd expected to return from injury soon, Harang will be looking to continue his stellar start to the season and make it hard for the Braves to take him out of the rotation.

"Sometimes you feel that you have too much [starting pitching], but then you never do," Braves manager Fredi Gonazalez said Thursday. "If we do, we filter some of those guys into our bullpen and that's stronger. Usually I don't look that far ahead because something bizarre always happens."

Young's return does not come a moment too soon. In a three-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas, Young, who joined the Mets in Arizona on Wednesday, was 8-for-12 with two home runs.

"I felt pretty good, but it wasn't so much about the hitting," Young said. "It was more about getting my leg right, getting comfortable running the bases again. When you pull a muscle, it's still a small adjustment period you have to go through to get comfortable with running again and being comfortable pushing yourself. That was really the main thing I was working on, and it got better every day."

The Mets signed Young to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million this offseason in hopes the outfielder can forget his woes in recent seasons and regain the All-Star form he enjoyed in 2010.

Young hit 27 home runs and achieved career-best numbers with 91 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and a .257 batting average in 2010. During the next three seasons, he batted .225 and saw his homer tally drop from 20 to 14 to 12.

Eager to put his tough years behind him, Young cannot wait for his true Mets debut. He tried to play on April 2, but exited due to the right quadriceps injury before he even made a plate appearance.

Harang may just be the pitcher Young will want to see. Young is batting .292 (7-for-24) with three home runs and five RBIs in his career against Harang. But no matter who is on the mound, there is no doubt Young is ready to get going.

Braves: Offense woke up in series against Mets
  • Following a shutout at the hands of Mets starter Bartolo Colon on April 8 that concluded a seven-game stretch of only 15 runs, the Braves lineup caught fire. Atlanta is 6-1 with 16 home runs since, averaging 5.9 runs per game.
Signs of the Braves' upcoming outburst showed when Jason Heyward came only a couple of feet away from hitting a game-tying grand slam off Mets closer Jose Valverde in the bottom of the ninth in the 4-0 loss.

"We've got to put the whole lineup together and get the line moving," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said following the loss to Colon. "But there are some signs there."
  • The last time Jason Heyward faced Niese, he suffered two fractures in his jaw when the left-hander accidentally hit the right fielder with a pitch on Aug. 21, 2013.
Upon Heyward's return to the lineup late last season, his batting helmet included a jaw guard. Heyward still wears a helmet with the guard this year.

Mets: Murphy setting table in lineup's second spot
  • New York second baseman Daniel Murphy is doing his duty near the top of the lineup, batting .333 (11-for-33) with five RBIs and seven runs scored in the past seven games.
The lone blemish during that stretch was an 0-for-7 day in an 11-hit effort by the Mets in a 7-6 win against the Angels on April 12.

Murphy aims to enjoy yet another successful day against Harang on Friday. He is batting .429 (6-for-14) with a home run, four doubles and five RBIs.

Worth noting
  • David Wright is batting .458 (11-for-24) with a home run, four doubles and seven RBIs in his career against Harang.
  • Freddie Freeman is batting .333 (9-for-27) and Heyward is batting .375 (9-for-24) against Niese. Each player has homered twice against the southpaw.

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