When the Atlanta Braves took the field at Truist Park on Friday night, they were in second place in the NL East and trailed the New York Mets by one game in the standings. By the time the weekend was over, the Braves led the division by two games after a stunning three-game sweep of the Mets.
It even sounds like some of Atlanta's players were surprised by how well they played during their biggest series of the season, including relief pitcher A.J. Minter.
It's hard to argue with Minter's assessment. The Braves came up big when they needed to, showing why they're still one of the best teams in baseball after winning the World Series last year. They outdueled the Mets' two aces, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, while shutting down a dangerous lineup that ranks sixth in MLB in runs scored. Atlanta won with clutch hitting, timely pitching, sound baserunning and solid fielding, excelling in all aspects of the game.
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After playing catch-up in the standings all summer long, the Braves are finally atop the NL East. They also have some breathing room with a two-game lead and only three games remaining in the regular season. Since Atlanta won the season series with New York, 10-9, the Braves only need to win one of their three games against the mediocre Miami Marlins (67-92) to clinch their fifth straight division title.
More importantly, winning the division would also mean that Atlanta finishes with the second-best record in the National League after the Los Angeles Dodgers, thereby earning a first-round bye during the Wild Card round. That would give the Braves a few extra days to recharge and line up their rotation after a grueling division race that has gone down to the wire.
That brief break should give Atlanta a major leg up when the postseason starts later this week and perhaps fuel another deep October run. The Braves currently have the third-best World Series odds (-500) on FanDuel Sportsbook's MLB odds.
If they do win it all, their outstanding final series against the Mets will be a big reason why.