For the fifth consecutive season, the Atlanta Braves are NL East champions. The defending World Series champs clinched the division title with Tuesday night's win over the Miami Marlins (ATL 2, MIA 1).
Credit for this one goes to the pitching. Starter Jake Odorizzi allowed just one run (a solo homer) in five innings before Collin McHugh, Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter and Kenley Jansen brought it home, though Minter got himself into trouble in the eighth. In the case of the relievers, it was a familiar formula and something we can look forward to seeing this next month in any games the Braves lead in the playoffs.
A William Contreras RBI infield single broke the tie in the fifth and that bullpen just did their thing.
to move into first place and take control of the division after spending much of the season running them down.
The Braves have spent only four days alone in first place this season and, on June 1, they were 10 1/2 games behind the Mets. The 10 1/2-game lead is tied for the third largest blown division lead in baseball history:
- 1951 Dodgers: 13 games (Giants won NL)
- 1995 Angels: 11 games (Mariners won AL West)
- 1979 Astros: 10 1/2 games (Reds won NL West)
- 2022 Mets: 10 1/2 games (Braves won NL East)
Truth be told, the Braves won the NL East more than the Mets lost it. The Mets are 64-44 since building that 10 1/2-game lead on June 1, a 96-win pace and the sixth-best record in baseball during that time. The Braves, meanwhile, are 77-33 since June 1. Only the juggernaut Dodgers (77-33) can match them during that time. The Mets were good, the Braves were better.
As an added bonus, the NL East title comes with a Wild Card Series bye, so the Braves will have five days to rest between the end of the regular season and the start of the NLDS on Oct. 11. Atlanta could see the Mets again in the NLDS -- they'll play the winner of the Mets vs. Padres or Phillies Wild Card Series.
The Braves won the NL East despite losing Freddie Freeman to free agency, though it would be more accurate to say the Braves let Freeman move on because they traded for Matt Olson to replace Freeman before Freeman signed with the Dodgers. Freeman has thoroughly outproduced Olson this year, but Olson has been an above-average first baseman and an adequate replacement.
Rookies Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider have further reinforced a championship core that includes Ronald Acuña Jr., Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, and others. The trade deadline addition of Raisel Iglesias has given the bullpen an enormous lift, as has the emergence of lefty Dylan Lee. Kyle Wright broke out as a top tier starter as well.
It remains to be seen whether second baseman Ozzie Albies will be able to return at some point in the postseason. He missed most of the season with a broken foot, then broke a finger one day after coming off the injured list. He did not need surgery but is expected to miss several weeks. Orlando Arcia and rookie Vaughn Grissom have handled second base duty in the interim.
The Braves will look to become MLB's first repeat champion since the Yankees won three straight World Series from 1998-2000. Securing the division title and a Wild Card Series bye makes the path to another World Series win that much easier.