Following play on Sept. 22, 2001, three teams were separated by 3-1/2 games in the NL East. But it’s a largely forgotten pennant race, with good reason. Sept. 11th, for one. But the uninspired play of the Braves’ down the stretch was the biggest factor.
They went 12-16 in August and finished the second half only three games over .500. Take away a 19-9 June and you’re talking about a .500 team, one that struggled offensively throughout the season, with a spotty bullpen and aging starters.
The layoff following the terrorist attacks hit the Braves hard. They had won 6 of 7 prior to Sept. 11th. When play resumed a week later the Braves embarked on a four-game series in Philly, who trailed by 3.5 games. The lead was down to a half-game before Kevin Millwood, who struggled much of the year, tossed six shutout innings to salvage the series finale.
Meanwhile, the suddenly hot Mets kept on winning, and after Mike Piazza’s dramatic homer in the first game played in New York post 9/11, they moved to within 4.5 games of the Braves. Game 2 of the Braves-Mets series got off to a dreadful start.
Following singles by Matt Lawton and Edgardo Alfonzo, Greg Maddux, who had a 5.03 ERA in his last 10 starts, was removed from the game due to injury. Time to panic.
Turns out it wasn’t especially serious, just a hyperextended elbow. The Braves would go on to lose again, and two days later they lost their lead. But they would never fall behind the Phils and clinched the division on the final weekend of the season with a 20-3 win over the Marlins.
Now they’re dueling with the Phils for the worst record in the league.
Markakis 9, Olivera 5, Freeman 3, Pierzynski 2, Swisher 7, Peterson 4, Simmons 6, Bourn 8, Wisler 1