The NL is beating the AL in interleague play. Here's why it doesn't matter

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Interleague_Logo.pngMLB.com has a story with a rather misleading headline today: “NL makes a statement on Interleague weekend.”  Big statement: it was 22-20. They could have drawn game results out of a hat and gotten the same results. I’d ask anyone who reads significance into that record to immediately walk down to the nearest community college and sign up for an introductory statistics class before you hurt someone.

But hey, a statistically insignificant sign of league parity is better than nothing, right?  Bah.  As I said the other day, I find the comparison of the AL and the NL to be a dreary exercise. I must admit that this is partially because I’m an NL guy and I get tired of hearing people disparage the senior circuit.  But it bothers me far more because it’s a comparison that easily leads people to unwarranted conclusions based on an ignorance of baseball history. News flash: disparities, even great disparities, are nothing new.

While the Yankees got their titles, most people agree that the NL was the superior league — some people would argue far superior league — from the 1950s through the 1970s. Indeed, one reason the Yankees got so many titles in the 50s and early 60s was because they didn’t have to face much in the way of strong competition to win the pennant in the first place, what with pushovers like the Senators, Athletics, Browns/Orioles and others hanging around.

The NL, in contrast, was much stronger top-to-bottom, with far more teams breaking through to win pennants.  A lot of this had to do with the fact that the NL was much faster in integrating. A lot of it also had to do with the fact that the NL had smarter front office people than the AL (which explains the integration thing too), managers who utilized the speed game, thus diversifying offenses and owners who seemed less focused on the bottom line than on winning (key word being “seemed”).

Due to the lack of interleague play back then we can’t really quantify how much better the NL was than the AL, but it’s hard to argue that the NL wasn’t a better league during those years. Now we can quantify such a thing, and we have pretty clear evidence that the AL is superior to the NL.  Rather than just let it be, however, we get people wringing their hands and using such information as the basis for crazy suggestions like radical realignment and what not.

It’s one of the rare instances where more data, rather than less, is likely to lead people astray.  Let it be people.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.