By Dan Schlossberg
If the Atlanta Braves win the National League East this season, they will have erased their biggest deficit in the division era (10½ games). The 1993 team was 10 games behind first-place San Francisco in the NL West after games of July 22, then won the division by one game with 104 wins. the Giants won 103 but went home for the winter because there was no such thing as a wild-card winner at that time.
The 2022 Braves have gone 63-24 since the start of June, shaving the deficit to one-half game entering play today. Promoting 21-year-old rookies Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom from Double-A and moving strikeout machine Spencer Strider into the starting rotation were major factors. Harris and Spencer are now the leading contenders for National League Rookie of the Year.
By the time their next homestand starts a week from today, the Braves expect to add a pair of former All-Stars, second baseman Ozzie Albies and starting pitcher Mike Soroka. Both have been performing well in rehab assignments at Triple-A Gwinnett.
To win the division for the fifth straight season, all Atlanta has to do is run the table. Three of their remaining 25 games are against their only rival, the New York Mets, but are scheduled for Truist Park in Atlanta starting the last day of this month.
Despite a current seven-game winning streak that has them on a 101-win pace, the Braves face formidable challenges. They play three in Seattle and three more in San Francisco before returning home for the first of seven games against Philadelphia.
Both the Mariners and the Phillies have been out of the playoffs so long that their fans have probably made other plans for October.
On the plus side for Atlanta is a slate that includes nine games against the sad-sack Marlins and Nationals and nine games in the friendly confines of Smyrna, Georgia.
The Mets have a much easier schedule but must overcome injuries to Max Scherzer and Starling Marte, two of their mainstays.
Should the teams finish with the same record, the Mets would probably be awarded the division crown because they won the season’s series against the Braves. To stop that from happening, Atlanta would have to sweep that end-of-month Truist Park series. It is worth noting that the Braves are the only club to hang a loss on Mets ace Jacob deGrom this season.
Both teams know that things can change quickly. The slow-starting Braves had a 7 per cent chance to win the NL East on June 1, according to Baseball Reference. They are now listed as the favorites in the division, with a 57.3 per cent chance to win it.
The largest deficit any Braves team has overcome to make the post-season is 15 games in 1914, when the “Miracle” Braves went 68-19 over their last 87 games en route to their only world championship in Boston. The team won once in Milwaukee (1957) and twice while representing Atlanta (1995 and 2021).
No team has won consecutive World Series since the Yankees took three straight from 1998-2000. And no National League team has taken two straight since Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of 1975-76.
Here’s The Pitch weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has covered baseball since 1969. The author or co-author of 40 books, he writes for Latino Sports, forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and others. His e.mail address is email@example.com.