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.