NEW YORK -- With Hurricane Ian bearing down on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Major League Baseball is discussing contingency plans with the Mets and Braves in the event that the storm affects their three-game series in Atlanta this weekend, according to multiple people briefed on the talks. Realistic options include shifting game times or playing one or more games on Oct. 6, after the conclusion of the regular season.
“We know what’s going on,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said, stressing the importance of first getting through the team’s two-game series against the Marlins. “I really don’t want to put a focus on that, because our guys have done a great job of staying on task.”
According to the National Weather Service, Ian is due to make landfall in Florida early Wednesday, with hurricane-force winds and potentially life-threatening storm surges expected. From there, the storm is likely to blow north into Georgia, producing significant rain on Friday and Saturday even as it decreases in intensity.
National Weather Service forecast for Atlanta
Thursday: Mostly clear with wind gusts up to 25 mph
Friday: A 30 percent chance of rain after 2 p.m. ET, increasing to 50 percent at night
Saturday: A 40-50 percent chance of rain throughout the day and night
Sunday: A 30 percent chance of showers, mostly after 2 p.m.
The Mets and Braves are scheduled to begin a key three-game series Friday at Truist Park, with first place in the NL East and a bye past the National League Wild Card Series on the line. As such, both clubs have significant interest in playing the series with as few disruptions as possible.
Options include shifting Friday’s game to a matinee and/or scheduling a split doubleheader on Sunday. Though not a desirable option, the teams could also make up one or more games on Thursday, Oct. 6, the day after the regular season is set to conclude, if those games are necessary to decide the NL East title.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were no plans to move the games to a neutral site, according to a source, as the league did in the past for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Ike. The league also has no intentions to begin the series on Thursday, when the Mets and Braves have a mutual off-day. A move to a neutral site would be costly to Atlanta both from competitive and financial standpoints.
MLB’s priority is making sure the games get played. With the help of doubleheaders, that should be possible at some point between this weekend and Oct. 6.
Should the games be played without disruption, the pitching matchups are as follows:
Friday: Max Fried vs. Jacob deGrom
Saturday: Kyle Wright vs. Max Scherzer
Sunday: Charlie Morton vs. Chris Bassitt
Both Fried and deGrom are scheduled to appear Friday on extra rest and would theoretically be available to start once more this season. Because Saturday is the most likely day to be affected by weather, a doubleheader Sunday is a real possibility. But even that would not have a significant effect on the rest of the pitching matchups, because Wright, Morton, Scherzer and Bassitt are all in line to make their final starts of the regular season.
An Oct. 6 game or doubleheader, however, would affect the way the Mets or Braves line up their postseason rotation. Whichever team loses the NL East will begin a best-of-three Wild Card series on Oct. 7.
For now, MLB, the Mets and the Braves will continue to monitor the forecast. Although the Mets are scheduled to fly to Atlanta late Wednesday night, a final decision on game times may not occur until as late as Friday morning.
“I’m on double-secret probation,” Showalter joked when asked about the contingencies. “I don’t get involved in it. [Mets general manager Billy Eppler's] great at keeping me up to speed on it and what I need to know and what I don’t need to know. I’m perfectly comfortable that he’s got all this wired. I’ve got enough spinning my head.”