1. A little over three months ago, the Braves did not look like themselves – not even close. They were sloppy and inconsistent, a shell of the team many expected them to be this season. As the Braves stumbled, the Mets raced out to a huge lead in the division.
But the moment has arrived.
The Braves, a model of sustained success over the last few seasons, have caught the Mets. After spending the entire season out of first place, the Braves have a taste of it once again.
“Where we were and to do that, it’s a testament to that group in there,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s all about them and how they just kind of keep everything even-keel and do their job. They prepare, they’re consistent in their work and they play the game to win, so that’s good. I’m happy for them.”
Atlanta put itself in this position by going 62-24 since the start of June, erasing a 10 1/2-game deficit in around three months.
The Mets have not necessarily collapsed – the Braves simply have not lost enough for New York to sustain a large lead. It all led to the last few days, when the Mets lost two in a row to the Nationals and one more on Tuesday to the Pirates, while the Braves swept the Marlins before beating Oakland on Tuesday.
“It’s where you want to be,” Snitker said of being in contention this time of year. “You’d rather be here than somewhere else. You want to be in the thick of the thing. I’ve always said, even when I was a third base coach, you love that time of the year when you wake up and get a cup of coffee and you can’t wait to get to the ballpark because you want to play the next game.
“These games all mean something. It’s what you play for.”
2. The Mets series in Queens. The losses to the Diamondbacks in Arizona. And on and on.
There have been many times pundits declared the Braves dead in the NL East, or deemed them worse than last season, but Atlanta proved this: It is a long season. Despite any ugly losses, bad as they may seem, a big-picture perspective is always best. The Braves stayed level.
“It’s just the clubhouse, man,” Kyle Wright said. “We’ve just got a lot of good guys in here that have played at a high level and have won a lot of games. You just kind of see the tones those guys set and you know you’re never out of it.”
For the Braves, 26 games remain. A lot can happen in that time, as we’ve seen countless times. But the Braves sent a message to those quick to rule them out.
They were never as far out of this race as naysayers believed.
“These guys, at a young age, have been through a whole lot,” Snitker said. “We’ve proved that: As long as we got a strike left, we got a chance. I like the way they kind of just kept an even keel and went about their business.”
3. Almost at the same time the Mets made their final out in their loss to the Pirates, the Braves took a first-inning lead over the Athletics.
The Braves put together a lot of early offense, but needed more and more as the night progressed. But this group, perhaps the most dangerous lineup in baseball, continued delivering.
The win was symbolic of the Braves’ season and how they’ve battled throughout it.
“You watch the way this squad battled last year,” Matt Olson said. “You can tell it’s just a team who has confidence in our ability and knows how to grind out wins and goes out with everybody on their mindset on one thing that day, and it’s to win.”
The Braves hung a three-run first inning, a three-run third and a three-run fifth on the scoreboard. Still, those were not enough because Wright was charged with eight earned runs over four innings on a rare rough night. The final few runs scored when Dylan Lee served up a three-run home run in the fifth.
The Braves received contributions from many, including Olson (a three-run homer), Vaughn Grissom (a two-run single) and Marcell Ozuna (a two-run single).
4. As Olson stepped into the batter’s box for the first time here as a member of a visiting team, Oakland’s fans gave him a nice standing ovation.
His loudest moment did not occur until two innings later, when Olson launched a three-run home run to straightaway center off Cole Irvin that traveled an estimated 417 feet. The blast gave the Braves a five-run lead and, though a ton happened after that, this served as a nice moment for Olson in his return.
5. Atlanta’s bullpen showed toughness and grit in the final innings.
After Lee allowed the homer, Jesse Chavez hurled 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Raisel Iglesias and A.J. Minter each tossed a scoreless inning. Kenley Jansen protected a one-run lead to earn his 32nd save of the season.
Stat to know
30-13 - After Tuesday’s win, Atlanta is 30-13 against left-handed starting pitchers this season, the third-best winning percentage in baseball against lefty starters.
“Don’t really see a ton of games like that at the Coliseum – at least not that I’ve witnessed. It was flying pretty good.”-Olson
The second game of this two-game series begins at 3:37 p.m. on Wednesday. Atlanta’s Spencer Strider will face Oakland left-hander Ken Waldichuk.