Braves blast their way back into 1st-place tie

Atlanta regains share of first place with five games remaining

October 1st, 2022

ATLANTA -- The Braves have been better than the Mets over the past four months. If they prove superior again over the next two nights, they’ll be in great position to win a fifth consecutive National League East title.

Though this year’s best division race is far from over, it got even more interesting as the Braves claimed a 5-2 win over the Mets on Friday night at Truist Park. These two teams are tied atop the NL East with five games remaining, including the final two matchups in this three-game set.

“[Jacob] deGrom is one of the best pitchers in the game, if not the best,” Braves first baseman Matt Olson said. “So, to be able to get a big win tonight in a park that was rowdy with a good atmosphere was a good start to the series. We still have some more to go.”

Games remaining: 5 (After this series, the Braves play at Miami and the Mets at home against Washington)
Standings update: Braves and Mets are tied

Olson and Austin Riley teamed up to hit back-to-back homers in the second inning and Dansby Swanson added another solo shot off deGrom, who allowed three home runs for just the seventh time in his career and the first time since April 9, 2019. The power allowed the Braves to overcome Max Fried’s early exit and improve their chances for another division crown.

If the Braves win the next two games to sweep this series, they will have a two-game lead with three games remaining. More importantly, they would own the tiebreaker, which is the season series record, thereby lowering their magic number to one. The Mets have won nine of the first 17 games played against Atlanta.

If the Braves win just one of the next two games, the two teams would exit this series tied with three games to play. But the Mets would still own the tiebreaker, keeping Atlanta's magic number at four and allowing New York to control its own destiny.

If the Braves lose the next two games, the Mets would have both the tiebreaker and a two-game lead with three games to play. That would lower New York's magic number to one.

“[The Mets] are obviously a great team,” Swanson said. “They have 98 wins and they’re one of the best teams in the league. So, it’s important to get off to a good start and I feel like we did that tonight.”

Since slumbering through the season’s first two months, the Braves have gone 75-32. The Dodgers are the only other MLB team with that many victories. The Mets have won more than 60 percent of their games and produced the NL’s third-best record (64-42) within this same span. But at the same time, they have lost the 10 1/2-game lead they had over the Braves at the end of May.

"That's a good lineup over there,” deGrom said. “You make mistakes over the middle, every once in a while you get away with it, but they did a good job of capitalizing on it."

While a stomach bug forced Fried to exit after he allowed just one run over five innings, deGrom was bothered by a blood blister during his 86-pitch effort. His location certainly wasn’t pristine when he left a slider up to Riley in the second and then threw a center-cut, 3-1 fastball to Olson just a couple minutes later.

With the back-to-back homers, the Braves erased the one-run lead the Mets had gained by challenging left fielder Eddie Rosario’s defensive skills with a trio of fly balls in the top of the second.

More importantly, the consecutive homers provided a reminder of how dangerous the middle of the Braves’ lineup can be. Riley is now two homers shy of his first 40-homer season and Olson has hit at least 30 homers each of the past three full 162-game seasons.

But both have battled different levels of frustration over the past two months.

“You’re always trying to build that confidence and you’re always trying to put together consistent at-bats,” Riley said. “What [Olson] has been doing the past four or five days has been nice to see.”

Olson entered Monday hitting .102 with a .355 OPS over 25 games going back to Aug. 28. The veteran first baseman has gone 6-for-12 with three homers over the four games that have followed. If he and Riley are heating up at the right time, there could be more for the Braves to enjoy during this big weekend series.

“Right now, there’s no rest for the weary,” Swanson said. “You just keep going and keep grinding away.”