How the Braves got to the NLCS

Toby Fagan, Staff Writer

Pitcher Will Smith amped after striking out the side. (Credit: Braves Twitter)

“Oooh oh oh oh, oh oh, ho oh oh…” a cry that has hummed through Atlanta for almost 60 years. It is synonymous with the region’s only professional baseball team the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have been a successful team for a long time. As a franchise they have 3 World Series titles, 17 National League pennants, and at one point won 14 division championships in a row. Of Georgia sports teams, the Braves consistently disappoint the least. This year is no different, the Braves started producing wins early, with phenomenal performance from their best players.  

Superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. got off to one of the hottest starts that baseball has ever seen with an above .350 batting average and 1.100 ops through the first month. Coupled with over 10 home runs in that same time frame he separated himself from the rest of the pack in the Most Valuable Player race. Speaking of MVP’s, the reigning MVP Freddie Freeman had a start not worth scoffing at, retaining his MVP form with an above .300 batting average and .900 ops.  

Braves fans were right to have hope that this season could be the year, the year that they are able to claim that World Series title that has escaped them for 26 years. But that all came crashing down quickly. In baseball there are two sides to play; offense and defense, just like in most other sports. And while the position players started to outperform expectations and produce offense at the plate and great gloves in the field, it was the mound that became worrisome. The hot start the hitters were on became almost extinguished by the pitching staff, because even if the hitters are able to produce 5-6 runs every night if the pitching staff gives up 7 it won’t matter, and that was exactly what was happening. The Braves bullpen at the All-Star break ranked 19th in Earned Run Average, 17th Batting Average Against, and 19th in Strikeouts, the most below average team in the league.  That along with injuries to key players like Travis d’Arnaud and Hauscar Ynoa, it became increasingly harder for the Braves to win games. In baseball, just like Hockey and Basketball, the best players in the league, as voted on by the fans and coaches, come together to play an all-star game in the dead middle of the season. Where they are now seemed extremely unlikely at the All-Star break.  The Braves were 3rd in the east with a 44-45 record, when the ultimate tragedy struck. Their franchise player, the MVP front runner, the current best player in baseball, Ronald Acuna Jr, tore his Anterior Collateral Ligament. He was lost for the season. With a Below .500 with a team comprised of unlikely starters, like Guillorme Heredia, Ehire Adrianza, and Kevan Smith, the Braves seemed desolate and desperate. That’s where the great General Manager the Braves have in their possession, Alex Anthopoulos, comes into play. He made a series of very successful trade for players like Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, and crown jewel of their trade deadline acquisitions, Joc Pederson. These trades along with the breakout season of Austin Riley and the constant and reliable performance from star players Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman, the Braves went on to go on a scorching run in the second half. Through the next 3 months the Braves had above a .600 winning percentage, coupled with multiple 5+ game win streaks to end the season the Braves became the hottest team in baseball. They rode that wave to a 4th consecutive NL East division championship and a playoff berth. In the playoffs they had no intention of slowing down.  

Austin Riley and Freddie Freeman celebrating after securing the win. (Credit: Braves Twitter)

Starting off the National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. Then Braves lost the first game in Milwaukee by 1 run and then went on to win the next 3 games in a row to seal their trip to the National League Championship Series. All they had to do was wait to find out their opponent. The Braves watched as the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers battled for two more games to see would try and fell the Braves. The two teams are probably the complete opposite of the Braves. All season they went back and forth for their NL West division crown. Ultimately this resulted in the two best records in baseball. The Giants finished with 109 wins and the Dodgers finished with 106 wins, for reference the braves finished with 88. These two giants traded blows for 5 games until the Dodgers ultimately came out the victor. Maybe more significant than the Braves making the NLCS is that they are playing the Dodgers. Just last year the Braves faced these same Dodgers, where they took a 3-1 lead in the series and lost it and lead to the Dodgers becoming the eventual World Series champions. Circle back to today and the Braves look to right their past wrongs and slay the dragon. The Braves currently lead the series 2-0 taking both games in Atlanta and look to take at least 1 more in the coming week in LA and hopefully finish the series with a trip to the World Series, but until then let us revel that is the wonder and fun of, probably, the weirdest and most unimaginable playoff team the MLB has seen.  

The fans seem to be the most excited about this team. When asked about how they feel, Roswellians have been ecstatic. RHS student Guatam Vedula (12) exclaims “…it’s fantastic that the Braves made the NLCS. I can’t wait to see what they do.” Many fans expressed the same enthusiasm for this deep playoff run. Roswell native Nick Freeman (12) said “It’s great that they made it this far, especially after the season they’ve had.” The Braves have truly created a buzz that is present wherever you go in the state or around the south. This buzz has become more than just buzz, as the team has delivered on the hope that they can bring home a title and have relieved Atlanta of its storied drought.