Braves on cusp of NL East title after sweep
Atlanta wins season series, division tiebreaker as magic number drops to 1
ATLANTA -- Matt Olson and Dansby Swanson were too young to fully appreciate what Chipper Jones did when the Mets and Braves had last played a significant late-season series in Atlanta. But the two suburban Atlanta natives imitated Jones as they pushed the defending World Series champs a step away from a fifth straight National League East title.
Showing they are primed to enjoy another deep postseason run, the Braves completed a three-game sweep with a 5-3 win over the Mets on Sunday night at Truist Park. Olson and Swanson both homered in each of the three games, and Atlanta maintained control throughout one of baseball’s biggest series of the year.
Games remaining: 3
Standings update: Braves lead by two games
Tiebreaker info: Atlanta owns the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the head-to-head season series (10-9)
Magic number for NL East: One
“When I came to the park on Friday, I told my wife, ‘Well the playoffs start today,’ and that’s what it felt like the whole playoff weekend,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “These guys were ready for that. They were ready to fight that fight.”
The Braves entered June 10 1/2 games behind the Mets, and they lost four of five to New York in early August. But this same resilient bunch that won last year’s World Series despite not having a winning record before August once again finished the regular season strong.
With this sweep, Atlanta notched its 100th win, gained a two-game lead with three games remaining and further trimmed its magic number. The NL East race would be decided with any one Braves win in Miami or any one loss the Mets could suffer against the Nationals.
The only way the Braves would be denied a division title is if they were to lose three in Miami while the Mets win each of their final three games.
"Nothing's done yet," Swanson said. "This is still part of the journey, and there's still plenty of time left to go. There's no point in exhaling. I feel like you just got to continue to go out there and compete and perform each and every day."
Swanson certainly allowed his competitive spirit to shine. The Braves’ shortstop hit the decisive go-ahead home run off Max Scherzer on Saturday and then energized the home crowd again when he homered in Sunday’s first inning against Chris Bassitt. He aided Friday’s win with a homer off Jacob deGrom.
Swanson became the first Braves player to homer in all three games of a series against the Mets since Andruw Jones in 2006. Five innings later, Olson became the second.
Olson and Swanson were just five years old when Chipper Jones hit four home runs within the nine at-bats he totaled during a three-game sweep of the Mets in Atlanta near the end of the 1999 season. New York entered that series one game back of the division lead and left it in second place for good.
With their performances, Olson and Swanson may have rekindled some of that pain Jones created 23 years ago.
"I grew up in the, I guess you could call it, ‘hatred era’ from New York fans to Chipper," Olson said. "And they don't hate you if you're not doing anything.”
There was plenty for the Braves to appreciate during this series that began with wins against deGrom and Scherzer. Max Fried battled through a stomach bug to throw five strong innings in the series opener and Kyle Wright captured his 21st win after stumbling through the first inning on Saturday. The bullpen also thrived as Kenley Jansen earned three saves and the relief corps allowed just one run over 12 2/3 innings.
But the most encouraging development came from Olson, who entered play on Monday hitting .102 with one homer and a .353 OPS over his past 25 games. The first baseman has now homered in five of his past six games, including each of the past four.
Olson, Swanson and Austin Riley all struggled at points over the past two months. But like Jones back in 1999, each of them rose to the occasion just in time to once again seemingly crush the Mets’ hopes for a division title.
“We’re going to enjoy the sweep and then go down to Miami to take care of business,” Olson said.