Braves take over atop the NL East, but the job is just getting started

NL East

Since June 1st, the Braves have been the best team in baseball, owners of a 61-24 record, and last night, they won their sixth in a row behind an offensive onslaught. The Braves broke out for ten runs, but every one of them was needed against an Oakland team that isn’t exactly known for their offense.

In his return to Atlanta, Matt Olson broke the game open in the third with a three-run homer, stretching the Braves lead to five. But Kyle Wright didn’t have his best stuff, and the Athletics pounded him for four runs in the bottom half of the inning. The Braves would once again break the game open in the fifth, scoring three runs on back-to-back two-out singles by Michael Harris and Marcell Ozuna. But the Athletics wouldn’t die, tying the game at nine apiece with another four-run inning.

Then the game flipped on its head. After 18 runs were scored in the first five innings, only one person crossed the plate in the final four. That player was Ronald Acuña, who led off the sixth with a double and later scored on a sac-fly from Austin Riley.

The Braves bullpen over the final 4.1 innings was flawless. Jesse Chavez, Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, and Kenley Jansen allowed just one hit with eight strikeouts, moving the Braves into a tie for first place in the NL East for the first time since Opening Day.

It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But through 135 games, the Mets had a better record than the Braves every step of the way, even holding a 10.5-game lead over Atlanta entering the month of June. Unfortunately for Mets fans, none of that matters.

After losing three in a row to the Nationals and Pirates, the Mets have lost sole control of the NL East for the first time since early April. They’ve been a juggernaut all season, which is why the job is far from finished for the Braves. In fact, it’s just getting started.

With 26 games to play, all the chips are on the table. The Mets still have the easiest schedule in baseball to end the season, and I have no doubt they will get back on track sooner rather than later. If the Braves let their foot off the pedal for just a second, they’ll find themselves three games back in the NL East in the blink of an eye. It’s going to take brilliant baseball the rest of the way to pull this off. Thankfully, that’s all the Braves have shown for the past three-plus months.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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