How the surging Braves caught the dominant Mets

Late season mediocrity has come back to haunt the once infallible Mets, as the once mediocre Braves have dominated the latter half of the season.


(Augustin Langlet for WSN)

Pablo Ocariz, Staff Writer

The New York Mets have arguably been the top team in the National League East all year. Since game six of the season, they have spent all but one night atop the NL East standings. At their peak, they even led the rankings by as many as 10 and a half games. Overall, the Mets are a powerhouse and are one of the favorites to win the World Series.

Because of a rule change this off-season, the top two seeds in each league get a bye, similarly to football. The other four teams that make the playoffs have to play a three-game wildcard series. An escape from the mess that is a three-game series, as well as the ability to rest their stars going into the playoffs, is a huge incentive for whoever wins the East. And the Mets should be running away with it.

Not only are they an extremely exciting team as a whole, but also they have arguably the most exciting player. Star reliever Edwin Díaz has pitched the lights out every day, racking up a historical 1.40 earned run average and an even more historical 17.1 strikeouts per nine innings — only 0.6 away from the record — not to mention his iconic entrance. When the Mets have a lead under three runs in the ninth inning, there is not a soul in the stadium that doesn’t know what is going to happen. “Narco” by Blasterjaxx and Timmy Trumpet starts playing. The entire crowd is on their feet, playing air trumpets, filming the superstar trotting towards the mound. They know that the inning, and the game, will be over within the next three batters.

The Mets also have by far the best rotation in the division, arguably the best in all of baseball. They have as many as seven starters who have all performed above average. However, the depth of their rotation is not what makes the headlines — it’s the star pitchers, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. Both pitchers have sub three ERAs and sub one WHIPs, as well as hold a total of five Cy Young awards between them, making them the best one-two punch in the Major Leagues.

But sure enough, good streaks must come to an end, including the Mets’ streak of near perfection. This past month, the Mets have been incredibly average, with a 17-13 record in their last 30 games.

What’s more is that down south is one of the Mets’ sworn rivals, constantly nipping at their heels and pouncing on every mistake – the Atlanta Braves are only one game away from overtaking the Mets. In the last 30 games they have played at their peak, with a 21-9 record – the best in the National League.

Despite there being a double-digit gap between the two teams at one point in the season, the Braves have once again proven that they simply don’t know when to quit. They ended the first half of last season as a sub-.500 team, only to do the impossible and make a complete turnaround. Despite losing their perennial MVP candidate, Ronald Acuña Jr, and their supposed ace, Mike Soroka, both to injury, the Braves caught fire in the second half of the 2021 season and won the World Series.

Their victorious attitude carried over to the 2022 season.

Rookie Michael Harris II has been the star of this run. The 21-year-old has not only been the Braves’ top hitter, but one of the best in all of baseball. He has hit 18 home runs in only 101 games, has an OPS of .884, has stolen 17 bases in 18 attempts and has even managed to hit a team-leading two triples.

The pitching staff has also played fantastically, with the four-man-band of Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider being one of the best one to four rotations in the MLB.

While the Braves are closing in, they have yet to lock down a reliable closer, much less one as reliable as Diaz. Star acquisition Kenley Jansen has been incredibly disappointing, having blown a whopping seven save opportunities, tied for second most in MLB.

They also don’t have a reliable fifth starter. Ian Anderson, their current fifth starter, holds a less-than-inspiring 5.00 ERA. And with him now on the injured reserve, his replacement Jake Odorizzi has not been much better, with his ERA also being over 4.00.

Despite this, the Mets still have a favorable path to clinching the division. They still have the lead in the NL East and don’t have as many holes in their squad as the Braves do. With just over ten games left in the regular season, and the gap being as little as one game, this is going to be an exciting finish.

Contact Pablo Ocariz at [email protected].