The Atlanta Braves: Road to a Championship

Atlanta Braves celebrate after winning Game 6 of baseball???s National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Atlanta. The Braves defeated the Dodgers 4-2 to win the series. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

John Bazemore

Atlanta Braves celebrate after winning Game 6 of baseball???s National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Atlanta. The Braves defeated the Dodgers 4-2 to win the series. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Josh Hoerner, Author

The Atlanta Braves are the 2021 World Series Champions.  After a 6 game series vs the Houston Astros, the Braves closed out the series.  After winning the final game, the Atlanta Braves brought home a championship after 26 years of waiting and pain.  Let’s dive into the Braves’ regular season and their journey on becoming the World Champions. 

The Braves came into this season after a disappointing end to last season.  After a covid shortened season, the Braves finished first in the NL East.  The Braves took down the Reds in the first round of a 3 game series, they went on to beat the Marlins in the 2nd round.  This set up a showdown vs the Dodgers.  The Braves eventually fell in 6 games.  The Dodgers then went on to win the World Series.  They entered as clear favorites to win the NL East, even with the improving Mets, Nationals, and Phillies.  Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies were becoming rising stars.  Freddie Freeman was an MVP favorite.  The pitching staff featured breakout stars in Ian Anderson and Max Freed.  Top pitching prospect Mike Soroka was returning from injury.  The bullpen featured two lefty stars Tyler Matzek, and Will Smith.  The only team that seemed to stand in their way were the mighty Dodgers…

The Braves season got up to an up and down start.  After the first 8 games, they were 4-4.  They lost their first 4 games, then won their next 4.  But, they did lose top-pitching prospect, Mike Soroka, again after getting hurt last year.  Their first half of the season seemed to go the same as the first 8 games.  A surprise was in 3rd baseman Austin Riley, who looked like an emerging star.  The whole Braves infield looked primed for a big season, with fellow infielders Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Freddie Freeman producing a majority of the offense.  Then, the Braves lost perennial MVP candidate Ronald Acuna Jr. to a season-ending injury.  Acuna was leading the national league in home runs.  This thinned out the Braves outfield and lost a ton of production in their lineup.  At the halfway point, the Braves were 39-41, and in 4th place in the division.  Although, they were still only 8 games out of first place.  Then the trade deadline came and changed the Braves season…

The Braves were 51-53 on the day of the deadline.  It seemed as though they were going to sit calm, and prepare a run for next year.  They weren’t going to part with their top prospects for a year they weren’t really close to a playoff run.  But, as noon came around, the Braves started to make moves.  The Braves acquired 4 outfielders, Jorge Soler from the Royals, Adam Duvall from the Marlins, Eddie Rosario from the Indians, and Joc Pederson from the Cubs.  All power-hitting corner outfielders, each played key roles in the playoffs as a whole.  Duvall was the odd man out but still played a huge role in pitch-hitting opportunities off the bench.  Rosario was the NLCS MVP and had 14 hits in that round of the playoffs.  Joc Pederson hit 2 home runs in the first round of the playoffs, earning the nickname “Joctober”.  Finally, Jorge Soler was the World Series MVP and hit 3 home runs in the World Series.  More importantly, he hit a towering 450 feet blast which changed the scope of the final game.  Although debatable, GM Alex Anthopalas had one of the greatest trade deadlines in baseball history.  Statistically, these 4 players made a bigger impact than any players acquired by another team in history.

In short, the Braves crushed the rest of the season.  They went 34-18 in August and September, including a 9 game winning streak in August.  In the division, the Marlins lost steam, the Nationals traded everyone away at the deadline, the Phillies stayed around .500, and the Mets lost Degrom and their offense plummeted.  The Braves actually won the division by 6 games, but still took the 3rd seed in the National League, and had the worst record of any team in the playoffs.  In the first round, they took on the 95 win Milwaukee Brewers…

The Brewers took game one.  Braves starter Charlie Morton went 6 innings and only gave up 2 runs.  The Braves’ offense was non-existent, as their only run was a Joc Pederson home run.  It looked like the Braves would become deflated, but a quick turnaround happened.  After a brilliant pitching performance from Max Fried, the Braves took game 2, 3-0.  The series was heading back to Atlanta, tied at 1.  Game 3 was a crucial game.  Again, the Braves won 3-0.  They had another brilliant pitching performance, this time from Ian Anderson, who went 5 shutout innings.  The bullpen also went 4 shutout innings.  Game 4 would be played in Atlanta.  Morton was on the bump and gave up 2 earned runs in 3 and one-third innings.  The game was tied going into the bottom of the 8th, when Freddie Freeman broke the tie, and sent the Braves into the NLCS, winning 5-4.  Now, Atlanta would have to face the mighty Dodgers…  

Atlanta had home field, as they were the higher seed.  They took game 1, on another great pitching performance from Fried, who went 6 innings and gave up two runs.  They won on an Austin Riley line-drive single.  Game 2 would feature Ian Anderson vs Max Sherzer.  The Braves won again 5-4, on a walk-off from Eddie Rosario this time.  They had a 2-0 series lead heading to LA.  They lost game 3 on a collapse from the bullpen.  Dodgers Center Fielder Cody Bellinger had the game-tying three-run home run, and Mookie Betts doubled home the winning run.  In-game 4, the Braves got an offensive explosion from Rosario and won 9-2.  Rosario had three hits and batted in 4 runs.  The Dodgers took game 5 after a bad start from Freed and sent the series 3-2 back to Atlanta.  The Braves were facing the Dodgers ace, Walker Buehler.  But, the Braves got to Buehler early, and never looked back, winning the game 4-2.  The Braves were now going on to the World Series to face the Houston Astros….

Game 1 featured Charlie Morton and Frambler Valdez.  The Braves got to Valdez early and knocked him out of the game after 2 innings.  The Braves won the game 6-2 and got big contributions from Soler and Duvall, who had 2 RBI’s each.  Game 2 featured Max Fried and Jose Urquidy.  The Astros jumped ahead and never looked back, winning 7-2.  Jose Altuve had 2 hits.  The series was tied heading to Atlanta.  Luis Garcia took the bump for the Astros and gave up 2 runs in 3 and 2 thirds innings.  The Braves won 2-0 and featured Ian Anderson, who took a no-hitter into the 6th inning.  The no-hitter lasted until the 8th.  Game 4 was a deciding game.  If Atlanta wins, it has the potential series-clinching win at home.  They stole the game from the Astros, scoring 3 combined in the 6th and 7th.  They got a good performance from Kyle Wright, who went 5 solid innings.  Game 5 for the series would be played in Atlanta, and the Braves laid an egg.  They lost 9-5, which featured an Astros offensive explosion.  The Braves couldn’t allow this to go to a game 7.  Game 6 and potentially 7 would be played in Houston.  Game 6 featured Fried on the bump.  Fried pitched a 6-inning shutout.  But, watching this game on my TV was incredible, especially Soler’s towering 450-ft blast.  That moment was incredible.  I even fell out of my chair.  The Braves won the series 4-2, and brought home a championship to Atlanta for the first time in 26 years.  Manager Brian Snitker was speechless after winning.  

The Braves don’t have a lot of free agents but have 4 big ones.  Freddie Freeman is one of the best first basemen in baseball and will command a contract north of 25 million per year.  Resigning him is crucial.  Along with that, trade deadline acquisition Eddie Rosario is also an important free agent.  Rosario is more likely to walk since Acuna is coming back.  Along with him, Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler.  They need to bring at least two of these guys back, hopefully, 3.  More replaceable pitchers are Drew Smyly and Chris Martin.  

The Atlanta Braves are the 2021 World Series champions.  This young team is a future dynasty in the making.