Heading to 5th straight playoffs, Braves focused on big-picture goals

New York's win in Milwaukee seals Atlanta's postseason spot, keeps NL East deficit at one

September 21st, 2022

ATLANTA -- The Braves clinched a fifth consecutive postseason appearance, but they would have rather moved into a first-place tie in their division. Got it? It’s just part of the excitement created by what remains a great National League East race.

and both homered as Atlanta claimed a 3-2 win over the Nationals on Tuesday night at Truist Park. The playoff berth was clinched 21 minutes later, when the Mets claimed a 7-5 comeback win over the Brewers.

While gaining this inevitable postseason berth was appreciated, the Braves would have rather the result been different in Milwaukee. Had it been, Atlanta would have again been tied with the Mets atop the NL East, but the club would have had to wait at least one more day to clinch a playoff berth.

“I hope Milwaukee comes back, quite honestly,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said before knowing the result of the Mets-Brewers game. “If we get in the door, then we have given ourselves a chance. The number one thing is we want to win the division, and we’re right there to make that happen.”

As the Braves sit just one game behind the first-place Mets, they still can control who wins the NL East. The two teams begin a three-game series in Atlanta on Sept. 30.

Asked if his team would celebrate clinching a postseason berth on Tuesday night, Snitker gave the response you’d expect from a guy who has won four straight division titles and last year’s World Series trophy.

“Everybody is tired,” Snitker said. “All these guys want to go home and get a good night’s sleep, because a 12 o’clock game will come early tomorrow.”

As the Braves bid to claim a three-game sweep of the Nats and an 11th straight home win on Wednesday afternoon, they will again lean on the strength of what has been arguably the Majors’ best catching duo this year.

Swanson’s eighth-inning homer off Kyle Finnegan proved to be the decisive blow after the Nationals used a couple bunts to manufacture a ninth-inning run against . But the Braves got the jolt they needed when d’Arnaud hit a two-run homer off Erasmo Ramírez in the fourth inning.

d’Arnaud has extended his career-high homer total to 18, and his backup catcher has tallied 19 homers (including those hit while serving as a designated hitter). This is just the fourth time in AL/NL history that both members of a catching duo (with at least two-thirds of their games played at catcher) have hit at least 18 homers in a season. The others to do so were from the 2019 Mariners (Tom Murphy, Omar Narváez), the 2016 Yankees (Brian McCann, Gary Sánchez) and the 1961 Yankees (Elston Howard, Johnny Blanchard).

“It’s been so much fun,” d’Arnaud said. “The energy he brings every day honestly inspires me and makes me feel young. So I don’t know if I’d be having as good of a year if he wasn’t here.”

With d’Arnaud and Contreras forming a great duo, Braves catchers have posted a MLB-best .872 OPS. Atlanta's backstops also entered the day with a 6.0 fWAR, which was tied for second among all teams, trailing only the Phillies (6.4).

“On an individual level, both guys are having tremendous seasons,” Braves veteran pitcher said. “Travis was an All-Star and William was an All-Star. It’s really hard to have two guys perform that way.”

Morton aided this latest victory as he kept the Nationals scoreless through the first five innings. Collin McHugh contributed 1 2/3 innings of valuable relief and Jansen overcame the two bunts to notch his 36th save.

It was a good night for the defending World Series champs. But keeping pace with the Mets was actually more important than clinching an inevitable playoff berth.

“It’s a marathon, it’s not over,” d’Arnaud said. “So we’ll just keep going after it until the end.”