2. The psychology of winning the division
The Mets have been in first place in the NL East for 143 days this season. That includes a 10.5-game lead in the division on June 1. Atlanta, meanwhile, has been in the lead in the division for just two days this season, both of those coming in early September.
There is a lot to be said for the psychology of the Mets having a stranglehold on the division for the entire season, then letting it slip away and being forced to play in the Wild Card round. What effect would that have on a team that has played with such high expectations all season?
And let’s be clear about one thing: The Mets have not stumbled in the second half of the season and given the Braves a chance to win the division. New York is 39-22 since the All-Star break while Atlanta has been even hotter, posting a 40-20 mark since the Midsummer Classic. The Braves have certainly played the role of defending World Champions who do not intend to give up the crown.
Atlanta has been chasing the Mets all season. Now New York has to make sure that, as the finish line nears, the Braves don’t catch them.