ATLANTA (AP) _ Empty seats are becoming an October tradition at Turner Field.

The Atlanta Braves once again are having a tough time selling tickets to the National League championship series, which opens Tuesday night.

Even with a nasty rivalry brewing against the New York Mets, more than 8,000 tickets were available Monday afternoon for Game 1 at the 50,062-seat ballpark. Nearly 10,000 tickets remained for Game 2 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,'' Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said.

It's not a new complaint. Former Braves outfielder David Justice ripped

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 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. EDT 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 Game 1 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,'' Braves right fielder Brian Jordan said. ``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 still thought tickets for Game 1 will sell out by Tuesday. Paul Adams, director of tickets sales, said 2,500 tickets sold Monday morning.

``I think Atlanta fans are going to rise to the occasion,'' he said.

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

But 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 extended the World Series to seven games beforing losing to Minnesota.

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