How the Braves keep their NL East lead
The chance that the Braves would make up ground anyhow added to the slingshot effect that has propelled them to a four-game division lead (and a five-game advantage over the Mets). Despite their actual 51-52 record, the Braves had the greatest run differential and anticipated record in the NL East until July 29. Their numbers up to that point indicated that they were playing like an 88-win team, whilst the Mets were performing like an 81-win team. It’s possible that the Mets’ deadline is a tale of good intentions gone astray, or that the pitching market is exceptionally inhospitable, but the juxtaposition is hard to miss.
How the Braves reclaimed control of the NL East by being persistently competent
The Braves patched their holes three or four times while giving up nothing in return, as Mets front office workers complained to reporters about other clubs’ excessive asking prices. Other elements, to be sure, have a role. No one in Queens could have predicted Michael Conforto’s decline, and there’s little credit to be given to anybody other than the players for Swanson’s RBI barrage or Jeff McNeil’s frustrating down season. But, in reality, the Mets were in a position of relative strength in late July, and all they needed to do was add some disaster insurance to get them closer to the prize of a playoff berth.
They did not do that, as new team owner Steve Cohen has learned the hard way. It was never assured that the Braves would ignite as they did during their 14-game winning streak, which has propelled them into the NL East catbird’s seat. And there’s no guarantee they’ll hold on, or that the Mets’ underperforming bats won’t kick into high gear. However, when you consider everything these rivals did to prepare for the 2021 stretch run — and the chances they offered themselves to pay off adversity-filled seasons with a series in October — it’s clear that the Braves outflanked the Mets.
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