We should all thank heaven every day that we are Braves fans. Just as importantly, we should all get down on our knees and give thanks that we’re not Mets fans.
JonathanF wrote yesterday about the new book, A Fan’s Life: The Agony of Victory and the Thrill of Defeat, by Paul Campos. As fate cursed Campos with being a fan of the Michigan Wolverines, millions of unfortunate souls have their daily emotional states tied to the fortunes of the Mets.
Let’s recount some recent history. It’s familiar to all, but nonetheless delicious in the remembering. On June 1, the Mets led the Braves by 10.5 games. But over the next 7 weeks the Braves went 35-11, so that by July 23, the Braves had erased 10 games off the lead, closing to within a half game. The Mets had not collapsed by any means. Indeed, they maintained their lead into August, and when they took 4 of 5 from the Braves in the first week of August, the lead was back to 7 games.
But here we are, just one month later, and the Braves are in sole possession of first place (and the Mets are not), for the first time this season. With last night’s 6-4 victory over the Mariners, and the Mets 6-3 loss to the Marlins, the Braves have a half game lead. I don’t read Mets fan blogs, but those that do describe the despair and the recriminations. It must be miserable. But you know, I don’t even read Braves fan sites on the internet. Other than this one, of course. Which, as JonathanF noted yesterday, is a real blessing, thanks to our founder Mac and those who have continued to maintain this as a place of respectful, informed conversation.
I’ll recount the highlights of the game in short order:
The Braves had ten hits and six runs on the night. Much of that came off a very good pitcher, Robbie Ray, who is having an excellent season. Four of the hits were homers, by Swanson, d’Arnaud, Harris, and Grossman. Harris and Grossman combined for 5 of the Braves 10 hits—out of the 7 and 9 spots in the order. This continues to be one of the deepest lineups 1-9 I ever remember.
Charlie Morton started and looked pretty sharp—except for the three home runs he surrendered (other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….). Morton has given up 24 home runs on the season, six more than he ever has. His stuff looks good to my eye; the curve breaks as sharply as it ever has, and he can still pump the four seamer in there at 96-97 mph. It may just be bad luck, but it’s also likely that he doesn’t command as consistently as he used to; sometimes the curve hangs and the fastball sits middle middle. In any event, Morton has been pitching well. Coming into the game, over his last 14 starts, Charlie’s ERA was 2.80, and the opponent’s BA has been .191.
The big three of Minter, Iglesias, and Jansen (Mintglesiansen?) held them scoreless over the final 2 and 2/3. AJ bailed Charlie out of 7th inning trouble, Raisel struck out the side (with a walk) in the 8th and Kenly had a 1-2-3 9th, fanning two.
We have a thrilling home stretch ahead of us. October baseball is great, but September baseball is just about as good, when two good teams battle it out down to the wire. And I don’t think the Mets are going to fold just because they’re now in second place.
But this Braves team is really good (Snit has me regularly using that phrase). Since June 1, they are 64-24 (87-51 on the season). The winning percentage .727. For your reference, that’s really good. No team since 1954 has ever played at a .727 clip over a 162 game season. Of course 88 games is far from a full season. But this team is playing as well in all phases of the game as any Atlanta Braves team.
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What the Braves have been doing the last three months reminds me of two of the great pennant races in which the Braves came from way back to win the pennant on the last day.
In 1993, the Braves were 9.5 games behind on Aug 11; they took over first just one month later, on September 11. Then they went ahead of the Giants by 4 games on Sept 17. But the Giants didn’t fold after blowing such a large lead. They won 12 of the next 13 to force a tie going into the last weekend. On the final day, the Braves beat the Rockies while Giants lost to the Dodgers. (If Chip had been calling the games then, he’d have said “All Braves fans are Dodgers fans today.”) The 1993 Braves were 55-42 on July 22. They went 49-16 the rest of the way, a .753 percentage.
In 1991, the Braves were 9.5 games back on July 7 (going into the ASB), one game under .500. On August 15 they were just a half game back, having made up nine games in a little over a month. But they didn’t take sole possession of first until Aug 27. Even then, it was far from over. The Braves had fallen to two games back on Sept 27, but then won the next 8 games, from September 28 through October 5, to clinch the division. The 1991 team went 55-20 in the second half, a .733 winning percentage.
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I imagine what I wrote at the beginning sounds like gloating. I should know better. The Mets are still a good team, especially so long as deGrom pitches every fifth day and if Scherzer’s injury is not significant. And their schedule is very weak (although the Fish seem to disagree). So it’s likely to go down to the wire. The final weekend series at Truist looms large. Still, I’d rather be us than them.
Tonight, Mighty Max takes the mound. First place feels pretty good–let’s try to stay there.