Why the Atlanta Braves must win the NL East

Pete Alonso of the New York Mets slides under Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images)
Pete Alonso of the New York Mets slides under Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Braves
Pete Alonso of the New York Mets scores a run as he collides with Travis d’Arnaud of the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on August 6, 2022. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

The confrontation is a month away, but its importance to the Atlanta Braves cannot be overstated.

It’s like seeing a collision before it happens.  You see it coming from a mile away and still can’t prevent it.  That’s what this 2022 MLB season is coming toward on the weekend of September 30-October 2 when the Atlanta Braves host the New York Mets.

It’s probably not overstating things to suggest that the winner of that series will have their playoff hopes enhanced significantly.

Almost all baseball fans want there to be a reward given to the winners of a division.  In some respects over the past few years, that’s been a difficult proposition to quantify, particularly given the need for some teams to navigate through a best-of-three series in the playoff’s first round.

This year with the new playoff format, though?  The advantage for the division winners – at least the best two division winners – couldn’t be more obvious.  We’ll get to that…

The Atlanta Braves have two strikes against them as we’re coming up on the final month of the season:

  • They are 2 games in arrears to the Mets in the standings
  • They are 2 games in arrears to the Mets in their mutual season series

The first tie-breaker rule in determining seeding among two teams tied at the end of the season is their head-to-head record.  For the Braves and Mets, that would also be the last tie-breaker rule involved, since the odd number of games they play will definitively decide who wins.

The Mets hold a 9-7 advantage right now with 3 still to play over that last weekend.  Atlanta needs to sweep that series to wrest tie-breaker control from the Mets.

Of course, Atlanta could also win the division outright if they manage to overtake New York in the standings during the 33 other games they have remaining, but the Mets will have something to say about that.

The schedule does lean toward the Mets favor (Atlanta faces St. Louis this weekend, Philly 7 more times, plus face Seattle and the Giants on the West Coast 3 times each; the Mets have Milwaukee and the Dodgers for their toughest other foes), but it’s certainly possible.

But here’s why winning the division is so vital:  it’s about the pitching and the playoff schedule.

That Dicey Playoff Schedule

The season ends on October 5th after the Braves complete their last series in Miami.  The Wild Card round games are held on October 7-9 (best of 3; so the October 9 game may not be necessary).

There’s only 1 day off to give teams a chance to travel and get ready for that Wild Card round.

Meanwhile, the best division winners – and the NL East Winner will certainly be one of those – don’t have to play again until Tuesday, October 11… so there’s nearly a week off before having to re-engage hostilities with a Wild Card round winner.

If this divisional race goes down to the wire (and that appears likely), the Braves not only will have to keep fighting the entire last month, but they may not be able to rest anyone – especially pitchers – as they pursue the Mets.

But there is a possible solution for Atlanta… even if they don’t take the division.