They don’t hand out trophies in June, but nobody tell the Mets that. Four months ago, the Braves trailed New York by 10.5 games in the division. They were four games under .500, and people were already digging their grave. But as I try to remind people every year, there’s a reason baseball seasons are 162 games. There is so much variance in this sport, but over the course of six months, the cream always rises to the top, and there is too much talent on this Braves team not to make a run at their fifth consecutive NL East title.
Fast forward four months and the Braves earned the right to play at home with the division on the line — a place where they have been dominant dating back to last postseason. In what has become one of the best environments in all of sports, the Braves entered this weekend 52-26 at home on the season after they won seven of their eight home contests during last year’s World Series run.
The Mets only needed one win this weekend to take a commanding lead in the division with just three games left on the slate, but they found out the hard way that getting just one win at Truist Park with all the chips on the line has become one of the most challenging feats in all of sports. Ask the Brewers. Ask the Dodgers. And ask the Astros.
From the moment Max Fried took the mound on Friday night, the energy was radiating through Cobb County — in and outside of the ballpark — and the Braves didn’t give their fans a reason to stop cheering for three straight days.
Atlanta’s pitching was dominant. The only thing that could stop Max Fried was his own stomach, as he was forced to leave Friday’s game after throwing up in the dugout following the fifth inning. Thankfully, Atlanta’s bullpen, which has blossomed into arguably the best unit in the league, was able to shut the door, giving up just one run over four innings.
Saturday and Sunday was more of the same from the Braves pitching staff. Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton didn’t have their best stuff. The bullpen, on the other hand, was nearly perfect, tossing 8.2 combined shutout inning while allowing just three hits.
It’s almost as if soft contact isn’t the key to sustained offensive success over a 162-game season, but you know what is? Homers. And the Braves couldn’t stop hitting them this weekend.
MATTHEW KENT OLSON pic.twitter.com/tYsOui4Mxr
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) October 3, 2022
Even with the Mets’ three best horses on the mound to start each game of the series, they couldn’t match up with the power the Braves were able to bring to the plate.
In the biggest series of the season, Matt Olson delivered, homering in each game. It hasn’t been the best year for the Braves’ new first baseman, but as I wrote a few weeks ago, all of that will be forgotten if he delivers when the lights are the brightest in October.
When Olson hit his third homer in as many games on Sunday night, he became the first Brave to homer in all three games of a series against the Mets since… Dansby Swanson, who also accomplished the feat in the first inning of the game.
Matt Olson with a long homer to start the sixth and push lead to 5-3. He and Dansby Swanson have each homered in all three games of the series, something no #Braves player had done in a three-game series against the Mets since Andruw Jones in April 2006.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) October 3, 2022
Swanson is set to hit free agency at the end of the season, but if there was ever a moment to describe just how much he means to this organization — to this city — it was this past weekend. He’s the catalyst to this team, the leader in the clubhouse, and he just might be the best shortstop in baseball.
As a whole, it was a picture-perfect weekend for the Braves, who have all but wrapped up their fifth consecutive NL East title. Their magic number is just one, but I would be remiss if I talked about the events that have transpired over the past few months and not give proper credit to Brian Snitker — someone that is beginning to etch his name at the top of the list of the best managers in the league.
It may not make sense to the average fan — hell, it oftentimes doesn’t even make sense to me — but there’s a method behind the madness, and there’s a reason this team is the most prepared to compete of any team when all the chips are on the line. Snitker once again delivered marvelously in the biggest moments of the season, and he’s among the primary reasons we are sitting here talking about five straight division championships.
The Braves wrap up their season with a three-game set against the Marlins, which begins today. They need just one win (or a Mets loss) to clinch the NL East, a statement I don’t think many people expected to be saying four months ago. It’s a testament to everyone involved, and this weekend was a microcosm of why the Braves have become one of the best organizations in all of sports.
Photo: Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire