Bradley’s Buzz: Tied at the top, the Braves await a weighty weekend

The Braves have held first place in the National League East for three days this season. They haven’t held it for more than a day at a time. They’ve been alone at the top only on Sept. 9 – by a half-game. As of Wednesday morning, they’re tied for first.

The Mets have held first place every day except two – April 9 and Sept. 9. Their largest deficit has been a half-game. They still hold a share of the division lead, though it mightn’t feel that way.

The Braves, who trailed by 10 ½ games on June 1, have again pulled even with the Mets. FanGraphs now projects this race will end in a tie, each with 101 wins. There will be no tiebreaking 163rd game, the expanded playoffs having rendered that a logistical impossibility. (More on this in a moment.)

The Braves beat the Nationals – for the 14th time in 18 games – on Tuesday. The Mets lost – for the sixth time in 18 games – to the Marlins. Each series is set to conclude Wednesday. The Mets are scheduled to open a three-game set at Truist Park on Friday, though Hurricane Ian could intervene.

If the Braves sweep, they’ll finish 10-9 against the Mets, which would mean they’d win a tiebreaker. (Though it’s hard to imagine the teams finishing tied if the Braves swept.) If the Mets win even one of the three, they’d win the tiebreaker.

The East champ will be the NL’s No. 2 postseason seed and will receive a first-round bye and be assured of an NLDS that doesn’t feature the Dodgers. The East runner-up must survive a best-of-three to get to the Dodgers.

The Braves would like to win the East. They’ve done it four years running, and the prize for finishing first has never been sweeter than this year. That said, finishing first after a six-month season over which you’ve spent 170 days out of first place would feel like found money – a windfall, as opposed to a solid long-term investment you’re about to redeem.

The Mets have, literally and figuratively, invested hugely in this season. Per Spotrac, their payroll is $281 million, $6.7M ahead of the Dodgers. (The Braves’ payroll is $198M.) According to The Associated Press, the Mets are in line to pay a luxury tax of roughly $30M. They’ve been mostly excellent – credit where it’s due – but they’ve wobbled just enough to remind us that, since 1986, the Mets have become famous for wobbles.

The Mets have worked 155 games. If they don’t finish first, they’ll long remember Saturday’s loss in Oakland. The Mets led 3-0 after a half-inning against the American League’s worst team. Jacob deGrom was starting for the visitors. By inning’s end, the A’s led 4-3. The Mets lost 10-4.

They began the day leading by 2 ½ games. The Braves, who’d lost three in a row, beat Philadelphia, a pretty good team, to draw a game closer. On Sunday, they won an 11-inning game that, owing to a rain delay, ran six hours.

They fell behind 2-0 in D.C. on Tuesday but won breezing. Michael Harris had a two-run triple. Ronald Acuña hit two home runs. The Mets fell behind the Marlins 4-0 and never caught up.

The Mets plan to start Chris Bassitt, deGrom and Max Scherzer in Cobb County. The latter two have five Cy Youngs between them. The Braves will counter with Max Fried, whose ERA is 2.50; Kyle Wright, who has won 20 games, and Charlie Morton. Given that both teams have clinched playoff berths, this series isn’t win-or-else. The winner will, though, have reason to feel mighty good heading toward the postseason.

Then again, the 2022 Braves have never stopped feeling good. They’re the reigning World Series champs. The Mets live with the constant fear of becoming the Same Old Mets. Should they finish second in the East, it would be no shock if they were one-and-done in the playoffs.

The above is part of a regular exercise, written and collated by yours truly, available to all who register on AJC.com for our Sports Daily newsletter. The full Bradley’s Buzz, which includes more opinions and features a weekly poll, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We’d be obliged if you’d give it a try.