The NL (B)East is Coming Down to the Wire

Tell your mama this is good drama.

In what first seemed like it was going to be a runaway division victory for the New York Mets, that feisty team down in Atlanta reminded us of who made an incredible turnaround in 2021 and won the World Series.

With just around two and a half weeks left in the season, it seems as if this division will go all the way down to the wire to determine who will take the division title.  The Mets currently hold a 0.5-game lead heading into September 15th and are 4-6 in their last 10 games played. On the other hand, besides losing the series against the Giants, and their last two in Seattle, Atlanta is 6-4. Each team has a huge question mark in regards to how they will fair the rest of the year, and who will end up as the victors of the NL (B)East division.

NL East standings heading into 9/15

Are the Mets going to Met?

Each year, the New York Mets fan base enters with such optimism as to how their team is going to perform. Owner Steve Cohen continues to do what all fans are hoping their owners will do and invest a lot of money into the on-field product. This off-season was no different after we saw him sign Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, and Mark Canha to multi-year deals. The return of Jacob deGrom was also something that fans across the league were looking forward to.

For a majority of this season, it seemed as if the Mets were going to run away with the NL East and finally put to rest the narrative that they cannot hold leads throughout the year. After losing deGrom and Scherzer to injuries fairly early on, they continued to defy all odds and held a strong lead in the division. Since then, not everything has gone according to plan.

deGrom has been able to stay healthy since his return from the injured list but Max Scherzer has recently found himself dealing with the same oblique issue that sidelined him earlier. Although he is optimistic that it isn’t a big deal, the Mets front office decided it was enough to have him skip a start, or two, to save him for the postseason.

If there is one thing you can guarantee, the Mets fans around the country are going to continue to be passionate up until the very end.

As we enter the home stretch, the biggest wild card factor the New York will be the health of their starting rotation. To this point, they have been able to hold their own through the injuries to Scherzer, Megill, and others throughout the year. However, these games carry more weight than ever with the division lead closing ever so quickly as we approach the end of the regular season. Max Scherzer’s health will be the biggest thing to monitor going forward as his impact goes beyond the pitcher’s mound.

History Repeating Itself?

All we have to do is think back to last season when you talk about this scrappy ballclub defying the odds, and making a deep run to become World Series winners. After losing Ronald Acuña Jr. to a torn ACL in July, the 2021 season seemed all but lost. However, we all know how that season ended.

Atlanta was expected to be a contender in the National League heading into last season, but they did not come out of the gates hot. The injury to the young star seemed to spark a rally and, ultimately, led them to win the World Series against the Astros. Not to mention them being the only postseason team to fall short of the 90-win mark, finishing the season at 88-73.

Courtesy of AP

This season seemed to start similarly. After losing Freddie Freeman in free agency, this ballclub was looking for a new face. Someone to step up and be “that guy”. Little did we know, this is a team full of those types of people from manager Brian Snitker, down to the last man on the roster.  Matt Olsen struggled coming out of the gate, Ozzie Albies was lost to an early season foot fracture, Charlie Morton was having trouble commanding the strike zone, and Ronald Acuña Jr. was in-and-out of the lineup as he was dealing with post-ACL ailments. Yet, here we are.

The emergence of a future ace in Spencer Strider has been huge. At what seemed like an aggressive promotion at the time, going from AA to the major leagues, Michael Harris II has been a revelation for that lineup. Sprinkle in another young star in Vaughn Grissom, the solidifying of the backend of their bullpen with Kenley Jansen and Raisel Iglesias, and the support of an aggressive front office have left us speechless at the way Atlanta has fought back to make this the most intriguing playoff battle in the league.

Like the Mets, this team is going to have to figure out the key to making this a strong finish and ending the season at the top of the division. While some might say it should be Strider keeping this spectacular season going, the hopeful return of Ozzie Albies, or Ronald Acuña Jr.’s knee healing up, the true wild card for this battle will be Matt Olsen. With the way that they have been able to be this successful without him reaching his full potential, if he was to get back into his form, this team will be boarder line unstoppable come playoff time.

Who Will End Up on Top?

This truly feels as if it might come down to the last week of the MLB season. To further add to the dramatics, this division may come down to the September 30th 3-game series between the two ball clubs in Atlanta.

Both teams are poised to show why they are deserving to be the representatives in the playoffs as the division leader. If I had to choose between the two, it would be hard to bet against what is currently going on in Atlanta, and the way they have been able to bare down and return to the same form that had them end 2021 as the victors.

 

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

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