SEATTLE – Once declared dead by some pundits, the Braves are in sole possession of first place in the National League East for the first time this season.

Atlanta on Friday defeated the Mariners, 6-4, at T-Mobile Park. The Braves (87-51), who have won eight in a row, lead the Mets by 1/2-game in the standings.

Here are five observations:

1. On the morning of June 2, the Braves were 10 1/2 games back.

On the morning of Aug. 12, they were seven back.

On the morning of Aug. 22, they were four back.

They now sit alone in first place. They can win a fifth consecutive division title if they take care of business, including in a three-game home series versus the Mets later this month, the rest of the way.

“That’s why we’re playing these games is to try and win the division,” manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s our goal. When we left spring training, our number one goal was to win the division. I think guys have been great in their approach and how they come to work.”

For months, the Braves fought their way up the standings. Last season, the Braves grabbed first place on Aug. 15. It took them almost a month longer this season, despite all the winning they’ve done, because the Mets continued playing great baseball.

The Braves’ solution to that: Play even better baseball. The Braves have gone an MLB-best 64-24 since the start of June. The Mets have not played poorly – the Braves simply have not lost often enough for the Mets to stretch their lead.

And on Friday night, the NL East race – the best sprint in baseball – took its latest turn.

“When we were in second and you just keep your head down and fight your way back and get some games back, you kind of have to approach it the same way, and the way we were doing it is, ‘There’s a lot of baseball left and just worry about the next day,’” Matt Olson said. “It’s cliché but that’s honestly the best way to do it. It’s no secret it’s going to be a big series when (the Mets) come to our place there at the end of the year. If we keep doing our thing here, hopefully we can work a little space and just keep playing our good ball.”

2. How good have the Braves been since June?

Consider this: Since the start of June, the Mets have gone 52-35 … and now find themselves in second place.

The Braves, who are on an eight-game winning streak, possess the majors’ longest winning streak. Atlanta has put together three winning streaks of at least seven games this season (the Dodgers and Yankees have also done this) – and all have come since the start of June.

The Braves won 14 straight games to open June, then grabbed eight consecutive victories from Aug. 19 to 16, then matched that with Friday’s victory.

It takes talent to do this, but something else must be present.

“It’s more about caring about each other, picking each other up,” Charlie Morton said. “That’s how you avoid the bad streaks. I think people really assume that if you have a really bad loss or you lose a couple games in a row, that everything’s going and everything has gone haywire. But it’s really more about what’s going on in the clubhouse, what’s going in with the individuals, how the guys respond to each other, in each other’s challenges and successes.

“That’s what really helps iron out those difficult parts of a season, and it’s also what helps you sustain success. I’ve not been on a good team that didn’t have chemistry in the clubhouse.”

3. This season, Atlanta has proven it can win in tons of ways.

But the Braves’ identity still lies in their power. They hit lots of homers.

In this game, they slugged four of them. Dansby Swanson opened the scoring with a two-run home run in the first inning, while Travis d’Arnaud (fifth inning), Michael Harris (sixth) and Robbie Grossman (sixth) all launched solo shots.

“There’s a lot of pop in the lineup, for sure, and we can score at any point with it,” Olson said. “That’s the dangerous part of it. ...It is nice to see some guys drive some pitches and know that’s part of our game and stuff that we do.”

The Braves’ 210 home runs this season rank second behind the Yankees, who have hit 215.

4. The Braves have started this trip by facing three left-handed starting pitchers. They have defeated all three, the latest being Seattle’s Robbie Ray, who allowed four runs over five innings.

The Braves are 32-13 versus left-handed starting pitchers this season, the second-best winning percentage against lefty starters (.711) in the majors. They trail only the Astros and, with Friday’s win, moved ahead of the Cardinals in this category.

Since the start of 2018, the Dodgers and Cardinals are the only NL clubs who have been better against left-handed starters than Atlanta.

5. Bullpens can be volatile, leaving it difficult to predict how Atlanta’s relievers will perform in the postseason. But the Braves sport a deep group that could be a major weapon down the stretch.

Protecting a two-run lead, the Braves deployed A.J. Minter for the final two outs of the seventh, Raisel Iglesias for the eighth and Kenley Jansen in the ninth.

Before the Braves’ relievers closed out Seattle, Morton allowed four runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings. Morton gave up three homers.

Stat to know

74 - After play on Sept. 9 of last season, the Braves had 74 wins, 13 fewer than they do on the same date this season.


“It takes one through nine. You can’t count on one or two guys. …When people feel like they don’t have to shoulder all the load the entire season – it’s a long year and a lot of stuff happens – it just creates a good environment.”-Olson on what it takes to win as consistently as the Braves have since the start of June

Up next

On Saturday, Braves ace Max Fried will face Seattle righty George Kirby in a game that begins at 9:10 p.m. ET.