Mets and Braves will start series with the division title at stake

Two months into the season, it looked like the New York Mets were headed for the NL East title with ease.

Not so fast, the defending World Series champions said.

Buoyed by two budding stars, the Atlanta Braves suddenly got their magic back.

Now, they are just one game behind the Mets heading into the biggest series of the year, three games in Atlanta on the final weekend of the regular season.

“It’s going to be fun,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s the reason you play.”

This isn’t like the classic pennant bids of the pre-wild card era, when a team had to win its league or division to advance to the postseason. The Mets and the Braves have secured their tickets to the playoffs.

But the other division titles have already been locked in with a week to go in the regular season, making the NL East the most attractive outlier. And winning the division comes with a huge advantage.

Whoever is crowned in that division will rest during the first round. The team that finishes in second place will have to play a best-of-three series at home, most likely against the San Diego Padres.

“We know how good (the Braves) are and we have an opportunity just like they do,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s great for baseball, which we love so much.”

The Mets, buoyed by a dynamic rotation and the bats of Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor, are appearing in the postseason for the first time since 2016.

His greatest goal has been fulfilled.

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Still, considering they’ve been in first place for all but a couple of days this season, it would be a huge disappointment if the Mets don’t break Atlanta’s streak of four straight division titles.

The Braves have been chasing the Mets all summer and finally caught up with them on Sept. 6. The fight has been exciting at times, with a margin of no more than three games for more than a month.

New York leads the season series 9-7, which means the Mets can clinch a tiebreaker if they pull out at least one win in Atlanta.

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