Bradley’s Buzz: Why the Braves need to sweep the Mets

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Baseball’s Weird, Exhibit No. 991: The Braves can win the weekend series 2-1 against the Mets, sweep the Marlins in Miami next week and still not win the National League East.

The Mets are 9-7 against the Braves. If the New Yorkers win once at Truist Park over the next three days, they’ll win the season series. In our year of the expanded playoffs, the season series is the tiebreaker.

In days of yore, MLB broke ties by playing more games. Two of the sport’s most famous moments came in add-ons. In 1951, the Giants beat the Dodgers in a best-of-three playoff on Bobby Thomson’s home run off Ralph Branca. (Russ Hodges: “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”) In 1978, a light-hitting Yankee’s homer decided the one-game playoff versus Boston (Every Red Sox fan until the end of the world: “Bucky freaking Dent!”)

Not long ago, the East-winning Braves waited for a 163rd game to know where they’d be headed for the NLDS. In 2018, the Dodgers and Rockies tied atop the NL West. Walker Buehler threw a big game the Monday after the regular season should have ended. The Braves drew L.A. in Round 1 and lost in four. Colorado slipped into the wild-card game and beat the Cubs; then it lost to the Brewers.

Because the four wild-card series are due to begin two days after the regular season ends, MLB left itself little room for extras. The Phillies have lost 10 of 13 and lead Milwaukee by a half-game for the third/last wild card. Should those teams wind up tied, Philly wins. It took the season series 4-2. Sorry, Brewers.

The Braves trail the Mets by a game with six to play. With a sweep this weekend, the Braves could go 1-2 against Miami and win the East, even if New York goes 3-0 against Washington next week. The Braves would exit the weekend with a two-game lead having won the season series 10-9. In that case, 4-2 over the final six would make the Braves division champs.

If the Braves lose once to N.Y., they could finish 5-1 and, should the Mets sweep the Nats, it wouldn’t be enough. They’d both be 102-60, but the Mets would win the tiebreaker.

We say yet again: The difference between first and second place in the East is massive. The division winner gets a bye into Round 2. The runner-up becomes the No. 4 seed and faces a best-of-three against No. 5. (San Diego leads the Phillies by 2-1/2 games, the Brewers by three.) The 4-5 winner plays the Dodgers in a best-of-five that will have one off-day.

Say the Braves finish second in the East. They could work eight postseason games – three in the wild-round, five in the NLDS – in 10 days. That would stretch any team’s pitching, and the Braves aren’t sure about Spencer Strider.

Now say the Braves win the East. Their first playoff game would come Oct. 11, six days after the regular season ends. As the No. 2 seed, they’d play the 3-6 winner, which figures to be St. Louis or Philly/Milwaukee. We know too well that the Cardinals are never an October breeze, but still: L.A. has won 108 games; the Redbirds have won 90. Also the Braves would have the home-field edge in Round 2.

The weekend brings an odd duck of a series. No matter what happens, the Braves and Mets will make the playoffs. Wild cards can and do win it all – though the addition of a wild-card series, as opposed to the one-shot wild-card game, could change the dynamics. As splendid as the Braves have been in September (17-8), the two series-ending losses to 101-loss Washington – one week apart, both ended 3-2 – were huge.

Ah, well. Can’t worry about that now. The Mets are here. Sweeping them should suffice.

The above is part of a regular exercise, written and collated by yours truly, available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Bradley’s Buzz, which includes more opinions and extras like 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.