Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Braves make a statement at Shea

I can't tell you the last time I enjoyed sitting down and watching a baseball game as much as I did today. The Braves and Mets were concluding their three game set at Shea Stadium, having traded blows on Friday and Saturday, which left the Mets 0.5 games up in the early NL East race. Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were facing off for the second time in this young season. And if Atlanta could steal a win, the Braves would be 4-2 against the Mets this season, having won both early series.

It started with Kelly Johnson ripping Tom Glavine's very first pitch for a home run. After leaving for a brief meeting and returning to find the Mets up 6-3 and Bobby Cox having been run (I hate when I miss that, but at least you don't have to wait long to see it again), the Braves got a two out, three run shot from Edgar Renteria in the bottom of the seventh to tie it, and a two out, three run shot from Kelly Johnson, again, to take the lead 9-6 in the bottom of the eighth. And after Smoltz and Glavine had become afterthoughts, it was Atlanta's bullpen, not New York's, that survived. It wasn't without drama - which makes for good television - but the Braves got it done, again, and now have both a half game lead of their own, and the much more important mental edge over the Mets. In eighteen games and three short weeks, Atlanta has, in a way, reasserted its position as (one of) the team(s) to beat in the NL East. And while it's hard to tell with the long season just 1/9 of the way home, it appears that no one else in the division is going to offer a challenge to the Braves and Mets - sorry Phillies, but you're 6-11 - and may end up, as predicted, that both will make the playoffs.

The Mets are a great team and will continue to set or match the pace in the NL East I'm sure. And a situation where every meeting between the two is critical would be just fine with me. But after a long year with few highlights and a once-in-fifteen-years ending in 2006, the fact that Atlanta sits at 12-6 and in first in the division, with any kind of advantage over the Mets, is plenty of reason to celebrate. Baseball in Atlanta isn't just relevant again, it's in first place baby.

No comments: