What had seemed inevitable was delayed, first by a postponed game and an Atlanta loss on Monday, then by a Mets victory on Tuesday. But with a 2-1 win over Miami on Tuesday night in Florida, Atlanta officially clinched the National League East title, forcing the 100-win Mets into this weekend’s wild-card round of the playoffs.
The Mets had been tied or leading their division after the conclusion of all but two of their first 157 games this season, and they led Atlanta by 10.5 games as recently as June 1. But a stellar second half from Atlanta saw it steadily make up ground on the Mets. A pivotal three-game series in Atlanta last weekend saw the Mets get swept, going from a one-game lead to a two-game deficit, while also handing the division tiebreaker to Atlanta. With only three games left for each team, that reduced the Mets’ elimination number to one.
The Mets had their game against the Washington Nationals postponed because of rain on Monday, while Atlanta lost to the Miami Marlins. Then the Mets staved off elimination once again by beating the Nationals, 4-2, in the first game of a doubleheader on Tuesday at Citi Field in Queens.
But with absolutely no margin for error, it was just a matter of time, and Atlanta (101-60) took care of business with Tuesday’s win over the Marlins (68-93), claiming a fifth consecutive division title as the Mets (100-61) beat the Nationals, 8-0, securing the fourth 100-win season in franchise history.
In Major League Baseball’s reworked postseason format, which was introduced as part of the new collective bargaining agreement this past off-season, the playoff field was expanded to 12 teams, with three division winners and three wild cards from each league. The top two division winners by record advance directly to a division series, while the other eight teams battle in an expanded wild-card round.
Gone is the wildly unpredictable wild-card game, replaced by a best-of-three round in which the lowest-ranked division winner plays the No. 3 wild-card team and the No. 1 wild-card team plays the No. 2. In a twist on other postseason formats, the games will all be played over the course of three days, and all will be hosted in the park of the higher-seeded team.
Starting Friday, the Mets, as the top wild-card team, will host the San Diego Padres (89-72).
Atlanta, meanwhile, will advance directly to a division series against the winner of the wild-card series between the N.L. Central-winning St. Louis Cardinals (93-68) and the Philadelphia Phillies (87-74).