ATLANTA (AP) _ Chipper Jones can't understand it _ the Atlanta Braves again are having a tough time selling tickets to the National League championship series.

``This is an exciting team, a blue-collar team, and this team deserves to have the backing of its fans,'' Jones said.

After drawing franchise lows for the divisional series, the Braves this morning were 6,000 tickets short of a sellout for tonight's opening game of the playoff series against the hated New York Mets.

More than 9,000 tickets remained for Game 2 on Wednesday.

``If the fans are taking for granted that we're going to make it to the World Series, the Mets may have something to say about that,'' Jones said.

Complaints about Atlanta's postseason apathy are not new. Former Braves outfielder David Justice ripped the fans in 1995 for not making enough noise during the World Series against Cleveland.

But it seems to be getting worse.

The Braves drew only 39,119 fans to the first game of the division series against Houston _ nearly 11,000 short of capacity at Turner Field and the smallest crowd ever in Atlanta's 44-game postseason history. The second game wasn't much better with only 41,913 in the seats.

David Teske, a fan from Jonesboro, said the 4 p.m. game times against Houston hurt attendance. It's hard for working fans to attend afternoon games on the weekdays, he said.

Other fans see the empty seats as a symptom of the Braves' success.

``I think the fans are getting a little complacent,'' said Vicki Reidy of Newnan, who bought tickets for tonight's game on her lunch break Monday. ``They're used to winning, and they like to wait until the end before they show up.''

The lukewarm support in the playoffs follows what may have been one of the Braves' most exciting seasons.

With Andres Galarraga recovering from cancer and Javy Lopez still out with a knee injury, the Braves managed to fight off the hard-charging Mets in the final week of the season. They won more than 100 games for the third straight year.

``I guess I was a little spoiled playing in St. Louis the last few years,'' said Braves right fielder Brian Jordan. ``Those are true baseball fans. Win, lose or draw they were always there. To come here and be in the postseason and not have sellouts is surprising.''

Braves officials were predicting tickets for Game 1 would sell out later today. ``I think Atlanta fans are going to rise to the occasion,'' said Paul Adams, director of ticket sales.

Steven Fortt, a New York Yankees fan who lives in Atlanta, said he wasn't going to any playoff games at Turner Field because of the expensive tickets. Reserved seats are $45, and box seats are $60.

Leetha Hayes of Chamblee said the Braves don't have the same magic they had in 1991 when they went from worst to first in a single season and lost to Minnesota in the World Series.

``I was a fan at one time when they had Deion (Sanders) and Fred McGriff,'' said Ms. Hayes. ``After they traded them away, it hasn't been the same.''