Breakdown of NL East's early-season slate

April 2nd, 2021

During the first month of the 2021 season, we'll get an early look at how the clubs stack up in the highly competitive National League East, where all five teams consider themselves legitimate postseason hopefuls.

Leading the pack are the Braves, who remain the gold standard with three straight division titles. They fell one win shy of reaching the World Series in 2020. After making headlines for their offseason moves, the Mets are considered the strongest contender to supplant them atop the standings. Those ballclubs will not face each other until mid-May, at which point they will renew their rivalry and begin playing regularly.

But there will still be significant intradivision litmus tests until then. Over half of the Mets’ first 24 games come against the Phillies and Nationals, a pair of veteran clubs that missed out on the playoffs in 2020 and improved their rosters over the winter. Rounding out the division are the young Marlins, who won a postseason series for the first time in 17 years but once again received an underdog label entering this year.

Below is the breakdown of each NL East club's schedule through May 2.

• Home/road split: 14 at home, 14 on road
• Games in division: six vs. Phillies, four vs. Marlins, three vs. Nationals
• Games vs. >.500 teams in 2020: 16
• Games vs. playoff teams in 2020: 16

The Braves won’t see the Mets, whom many pundits believe will be Atlanta's biggest challenger for the division title, until mid-May. But the Braves will be tasked with playing 16 of their 19 games in late April and early May against 2020 playoff teams. -- Mark Bowman

• Home/road split: 11 at home, 17 on road
• Games in division: three vs. Mets, four vs. Braves, three vs. Nationals
• Games vs. >.500 teams in 2020: 10
• Games vs. playoff teams in 2020: 13

After opening the season with a six-game homestand, the Marlins will play 17 of their next 22 games on the road. That will include a three-city, 10-game tour through three time zones in San Francisco, Milwaukee and Washington. -- Christina De Nicola

• Home/road split: 12 at home, 12 on road
• Games in division: 10 vs. Phillies, three vs. Nationals, three vs. Marlins
• Games vs. >.500 teams in 2020: Six
• Games vs. playoff teams in 2020: Six

The Mets' season will get underway in Philadelphia after their Opening Series against the Nationals was postponed because of COVID-19-related issues. Outside the NL East, the Mets will play three in Denver, three in Chicago and two at home against the Red Sox. The only 2020 playoff teams the Mets will see in April are the Marlins and Cubs, two clubs not widely expected to repeat as postseason contenders. -- Anthony DiComo

• Home/road split: 13 at home, 11 on road
• Games in division: Three vs. Mets, three vs. Braves, three vs. Marlins
• Games vs. >.500 teams in 2020: 17
• Games vs. playoff teams in 2020: 17

The Nationals are looking to move on from missing the 2020 postseason, and they’ll do it against playoff-caliber competition early on. After their Opening Series vs. the Mets was postponed because of COVID-19 contact tracing, when the Nationals return to the field, they will host the Braves, face the Dodgers on the road and play the Cardinals six times in 10 days (three at home, three on the road) in the first month of action. -- Jessica Camerato

• Home/road split: 15 at home, 14 on road
• Games in division: 10 vs. Mets, six vs. Braves
• Games vs. >.500 teams in 2020: 13
• Games vs. playoff teams in 2020: 13

Philadelphia will play its first 13 games against the Braves and Mets, so the club should know where it stands in the NL East real quick. -- Todd Zolecki