It's been a long time since the Braves were sitting pretty atop the NL East in June, and with a sizable lead to boot. In fact, it's the largest lead in the majors (by a wide margin). Obviously there's still a long way to go, but I wanted to take a look at what's still on tap for the remainder of the season. And thanks (?) to a pretty tough first two months, the Braves will end up with a much easier second-half.
For instance, how many games have the Braves played the worst team in baseball (Miami)? Three. Six teams have already played more against them than Atlanta (Reds, Mets, Cubs, Phillies, Rays, Nats) and five have played Miami as many times (Twins, White Sox, Dodgers, D-Backs, Padres). Atlanta won't even play them again until July 2! The Braves still have 16 games against the hapless Fish while Philly only has 6, New York 10, and Washington 13. With the most remaining games against the Marlins, they should cause our already-comfortable lead to grow even bigger. Also, Atlanta has only played 21 games against NL East teams, the lowest in the division. With nearly half of those being against the Nats, that leaves 30 games against the bottom-feeding Mets and Marlins, 17 of which are at home.
The divisional games are shaping up quite nicely, but what about the rest? The Braves have 48 non-division games left for the season with 21 of those against 4th- and 5th-place teams. Some of those, like the Cubs and Brewers, are already thinking about winter vacation while others, like the Dodgers and White Sox, are as close to 1st place in their division as Washington so they're still formidable opponents. Overall, the non-divisional matchups are against a bunch of Wild Card contenders with a few teams from both ends of the spectrum mixed in.
The Braves play 3 games vs. Philly and 0 vs. Washington until the beginning of August so these next 2 months are the perfect time to start putting the division out of reach. There will be some tough competition along that stretch -- 3 vs. San Fran, 3 vs. Arizona, 4 vs. Cincy, 3 vs. St. Louis, 4 vs. Colorado -- but the silver lining? All 17 of those games are in Atlanta. The Braves don't play a single (current) winning team on the road until August 22. Of course, several teams aren't that far under .500 and may change that fact in the coming weeks, but still.
I'm not sure about other teams' schedules but the Braves got the shaft scheduling-wise this season, what with 3 separate stretches of 20+ consecutive games, 2 10+ game-long road trips, and that goofy Toronto home-and-home series. But Atlanta not only weathered the storm but pushed right through it with the 2nd-best record in baseball to this point. While we're not even to the halfway point of the season, it bodes well that Atlanta has gone through the most difficult part of their schedule virtually unscathed and have probably the most appealing remaining schedule in baseball (thanks Jeff Loria!).