Braves falling into unfamiliar territory in NL East

The Braves entered Saturday five games behind the Mets for pole position in the National League East. It’s unfamiliar territory for most players on the team.

ExploreSaturday: Braves lose to Marlins again

The last time the Braves were this distance from first place was the end of the 2017 season, when they finished 72-90 in what turned out to be the final season of their rebuild. They surpassed expectations the following campaign, winning the division. They did so again the next two seasons.

In the past three years, the Braves have barely spent any time too far out of first place. In 2018, they never were more than 3-1/2 games out. In 2019, their worst position was four games out. Last season, they weren’t more than two games behind first.

A silver lining of the Braves’ season thus far – and there haven’t been many – was how the rest of the NL East wasn’t pulling away. That remains true, though the Mets are the only team in the division above .500 and are slowly distancing themselves from the pack. Fortunately for the Braves, they have plenty more head-to-head meetings against New York, which will be a golden opportunity to gain ground if they find a way to right the ship.

Braves notes:

- A small bit of good news for the Braves’ offense entering Saturday: They have three players sporting lengthy on-base streaks in Ronald Acuna (20 games), Dansby Swanson (19) and Ozzie Albies (18). Those are the three longest on-base streaks in MLB.

Acuna owns a .404 on-base percentage during his streak. Swanson’s is .351, meaning he’s raised his overall on-base percentage from .265 to .291 during the run. Albies has a .438 on-base percentage during his stretch.

- Acuna also has walked in 10 consecutive games, which is the longest such streak since Chipper Jones walked in 16 consecutive games during his MVP 1999 season.

- Max Fried entered Saturday’s start hoping to achieve something he hasn’t done: defeat the Marlins. They’re the only team Fried has faced and has yet to defeat. He’s 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA in seven starts against Miami.

- “That poor guy, he’s had more hard-hit balls with literally nothing to show for it,” manager Brian Snitker said of first baseman Freddie Freeman. That’s not too much of an exaggeration. Freeman, experiencing an underwhelming year after winning NL MVP last season, has 91 hard-hit balls, fourth most in the majors. As Freeman said last week, however, it gets old hearing about hard-hit balls. He’s still seeking results.

- Talking with Miami reporters Friday, rising Marlins shortstop Jazz Chisholm spoke well of Acuna and their emerging competition, saying: “Every time I play against the Braves and I see him out there, I say I got to win. I’m not going to lie. It’s something about him on the other side and knowing he’s probably the best player in the league right now. As in, who’s hot right now. And seeing him do his thing every day. Every time he gets a hit, I go up to the box and say, ‘I can’t let him show me up.’ I got to do it, too, or I got to do better.

“I wouldn’t want to play with nobody else. It’s fun going against him. He has the excitement that I want to (have). I want to go on the field every day and be like, ‘OK, bet. You think you’re going to do this in tonight’s game? I’m going to do it to your team now.’”