The New York Mets have a chance to show the defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves that this is a different team.

The New York Mets head back on the road on Thursday to continue their early-season schedule against divisional opponents. One opponent that tortured the Mets last season was the Atlanta Braves.

While most analysts have placed the expectations on the Philadelphia Phillies to win the National League East this season, the Braves are the defending champions and field almost the same team that saw them win 92 games last season.

The 2018 season for the Mets started off wonderfully. They set a franchise record by winning 11 of their first 12 games. The wheels started to come off when the team blew a 6-1 lead entering the 8th inning against the Nationals at Citi Field on April 16.

Hoping to get back on track after losing two of three to the Nationals, the Mets entered Sun Trust Park with a 13-4 record, three games ahead of the Braves and Phillies. The Braves took two of three from the Mets, including a walk-off win that saw Atlanta erase a 3-0 lead, scoring two runs in each the final two innings.

The Mets finished April with a 17-9 record and a game-and-a-half lead over the Braves. The two teams met at Citi Field on May 1, with the Mets seeking revenge that saw them get outscored 19-12 in Atlanta. The Braves jumped on Noah Syndergaard for three runs in the first inning and never looked back. Atlanta swept the Mets in the three-game series, outscoring the Amazin’s 21-2 in the series including holding them scoreless in the final 18 innings.

The series against Atlanta was officially the end for the Mets, as it triggered a seven-game losing streak. Overall, the Mets went 60-76 starting with the Braves sweep, going from first to fourth in the division.

The 2019 New York Mets are trying to convince their fans that this team is different. After an offseason that saw him boost their depth in both the bullpen and starting lineup, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen needs his team to back up the moves he made. Showing they can handle the defending division champions would be a great start.

The Braves still own an impressive lineup led by Met-killer Freddie Freeman (.315 BA, .908 OPS, 22 HR, 95 RBI in just 73 career games) and youngsters Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson, the Braves have won seven of eight games since getting swept in Philadelphia to start the season.

Pete Alonso
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The Braves offense has been very impressive during the streak posting a .840 OPS and averaging six runs per game. The Braves pitching staff has picked up the pace as well, holding opponents to a .229 BA and 2.8 runs per game.

Overall the Mets won just six of 19 games against Atlanta last season, including going 3-6 at Sun Trust Park. Incredibly, the Mets brain trust chose to waste Noah Syndergaard against the Twins on Wednesday, missing a chance for him to earn his first career win against a division opponent that has gotten the best of him before (0-2, 3.49 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in seven career starts).

However, the Mets chose not to hold Syndergaard for the Braves and now will use their other starters in their four-game series. The Mets pitching has been horrific the last few games, even Jacob deGrom, whose streak of 26 consecutive quality starts was snapped on Tuesday when he allowed 6 runs on 8 hits in 4 innings of work.

The Mets bullpen has been another problem after a good start this season, allowing 25 runs (9.25 ERA, 2.14 WHIP), 38 hits and seven HR in their last 7 games.

On offense the Mets have definitely held their own, scoring a league-leading 30 runs after the seventh inning. However, unless the New York Mets can overcome the struggles that the Braves caused them last season, they will be hard pressed to convince anyone that they are a serious contender to take the NL East crown.

Mark Everett Kelly, formerly of ESPN, Mark Everett is a 2-time Emmy Winner that had to retire from ESPN in 2008 due to side effects of cancer treatment. Since then Mark has been active as a Public Speaker, Author and Blogger. He is a Sports History Expert and his speeches inspire many who fight daily setbacks to pursue their goals. Mark occassionally writes for ESNY. He is the author of "My Scars Tell A Story" which highlights his endless battle fighting the side effects of cancer treatment. He also blogs on his website, about "Living As A Cancer Survivor". Mark also does not hide that he has a personal relationship with Jesus. He despises judgemental people and his speeches encourage and speak up for those who can't speak for themselves.