Following an epic sweep of the Mets this past weekend, the Braves secured their fifth consecutive NL East title last night with a win over the Marlins. The implications for winning this division were monstrous for a boatload of reasons, and it makes the Braves completing one of the best divisional comebacks in baseball history that much sweeter.
4. A much more manageable route to the NLCS
By earning a first-round bye, not only do the Braves avoid playing in a dinky three-game Wild Card Series, but they also set up a much more manageable route to the NLCS by avoiding the Dodgers in the NLDS. They will play either the Cardinals or Phillies in the Divisional Series. No playoff series will ever be easy, but I like my chances against those two teams much more than I do against the Dodgers, who have been the best team in baseball so far this season.
3. The ability to set up their rotation
The teams that come out of the Wild Card Series will not be able to use their top guys early on in the NLDS. That means whoever comes out of the Wild Card Series will have to go on the road without their top starting pitchers. That’s an incredible advantage for the teams that receive first-round byes, who will be able to set up their rotation however they choose with a fresh pitching staff.
2. Home field advantage
We all saw how electric Truist Park was this past weekend. It’s an incredibly difficult place to come in and get a win. The Braves are a remarkable 55-26 at home this season, and they were 7-1 at Truist Park during last year’s World Series run. By winning the NL East, they will have home field advantage in the NLDS, and there is a chance they will have it in the NLCS as well if the Dodgers can’t win their series.
1. Extra time for Spencer Strider and Ozzie Albies to heal
This is by far the most important advantage the Braves receive by winning the division and clinching a first-round bye. The Braves have been without Ozzie Albies for much of the season, but he’s still an upgrade in the lineup and would provide a huge boost to the team. The extra rest will only help the odds of him returning during the playoffs. However, I’m much more worried about Strider. He’s been the best pitcher in baseball since moving to the rotation, and oblique injuries can be complicated to come back from. Strider needs all the extra rest he can get before returning, and I don’t think there’s any chance he would have been ready for the Wild Card Series. His returning for the NLDS is much more plausible, and the Braves need him as close to 100% as possible if they want to repeat as champions.
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