For the entirety of the 2021 season, conventional wisdom has held that only one NL East team could make the playoffs, with nobody outside the eventual division winner holding any hope of grabbing a wild-card spot. But, as the stretch run comes into focus, the cream of the division’s crop has played its way into the wild-card race.

NL East odds Braves Phillies Mets
The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies have fought their way back into the NL East race, but the Atlanta Braves still hold the lead heading into the final month of the season. (Image: Kyle Ross/USA Today Sports)

The Atlanta Braves currently hold a two-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East race, with the New York Mets four games back. All three teams have between 23 and 25 games left to play this season.

Mets may not get deGrom back for stretch run

The Phillies and Mets suddenly find themselves within striking distance in the wild-card race as well. As of Wednesday afternoon, Philadelphia sits just two games back of the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres, who are in a virtual tie for the second wild-card spot. Meanwhile, the Mets are 3.5 games back, as are the St. Louis Cardinals.

That means there are two competitive races to watch for fans of these three NL East teams – and nobody can feel particularly confident about either one.

After struggling against the likes of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Mets have feasted on weaker competition, winning eight of their last 10. But their earlier struggles in August could still doom the Mets in the NL East race. New York could benefit from the late return of their ace Jacob deGrom, but it’s unclear when he’ll return, despite the fact that he’s entirely recovered from the right elbow sprain that’s sidelined him since July 7.

“At this point the sprain has resolved itself,” Mets president Sandy Alderson told reporters on Tuesday. “We need to begin to see whether this is more of a chronic issue that relates to mechanics in some way.”

The Mets remain a relative long shot to win the division, with FanDuel Sportsbook listing New York as the +950 pick to win the NL East.

Braves look to solidify NL East lead

The Phillies (+250) enjoy better odds of catching Atlanta, but Philadelphia lost ground on Monday after dropping a 10-0 blowout to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday. It was the first time this season that the Phillies lost to the Brewers in six games.

“This whole season, it’s, for the most part, one inning that’s erupted on me,” Phillies starter Aaron Nola, who gave up three runs in five innings, told reporters after the game. “I thought I made some OK pitches that inning. They just found holes.”

NL East Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)
Games Back Odds
Atlanta Braves -250
Philadelphia Phillies 2.5 +250
New York Mets 4.0 +950

Atlanta still holds the NL East lead, and that makes them the -250 favorite to ultimately win the division. Despite giving up significant ground as of late – losing six of their last 10 games – the Braves are still the only team in the division with a positive run differential. They also play the Nationals, Marlins, and Rockies in their next three series, giving them some very winnable games that could help them rebuild their lead.

All three NL East teams want to avoid the wild-card game, if possible. Whichever team snags that spot will face a one-game playoff against the NL West runner-up – either the San Francisco Giants or the LA Dodgers – and will likely be a substantial underdog in that contest.