The Atlanta Braves are closing in on punching their ticket for the postseason, but they have their eyes on a bigger prize which is a fifth straight division title and a first round bye in the newly expanded National League playoffs. Below is an updated look at where things stand entering play Tuesday as well as some key games to keep an eye on.
The Division Race
The Braves extended their winning streak to four-straight games Monday with a 5-2 win over the Washington Nationals. Atlanta trails the Mets by one full game in the standings, but are dead even in the loss column.
They will continue the series Tuesday with Charlie Morton matching up against Patrick Corbin. The Mets have won five straight games and knocked off the Brewers 7-2 Monday night as Max Scherzer outdueled Corbin Burnes. Carlos Carrasco will get the start for New York Monday while the Brewers will go with left-hander Aaron Ashby.
The Braves have two more games against the Nationals and then will head out on a seven-game trip to Philadelphia and Washington before returning home for a three-game showdown against the Mets. New York has two more games against the Brewers and will then head out west for a three game series against Oakland before returning home for two against the Marlins.
The Wild Card
While Atlanta is focused on the division race, they have essentially locked up the top wild card spot in the National League. Atlanta’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is two over Milwaukee. Entering play Tuesday, they have an 11.5 game advantage over the San Diego Padres.
Wild Card Standings (Entering play Tuesday, September 20)
Braves 92-55 (.626) +11.5
Padres 81-66 (.551) +0.5
Phillies 80-66 (.548)
The Brewers at 78-69 are 2.5 games back of the Phillies.
A quick glance at the expanded playoff picture shows why the division race for the Braves is so important. If the playoffs started today, Atlanta would be the fourth seed in the National League and would play either the Padres or the Phillies in the first round. A potential NLDS matchup against the Dodgers would loom largely since Los Angeles has already locked up home field advantage.
If the Braves can overtake the Mets, then they would only have to face one of New York or the Dodgers for a return trip to the World Series.