Looking back to July, it seemed like a long shot the Atlanta Braves would make the playoffs, let alone the World Series, but against all odds they somehow pulled it off.
Coming into this season, the Braves had very high expectations. They had a young squad with a lot of talent and experience. However, the Braves also boasted an extremely offensive core that was led by star outfielder Ronald Acuna. Their infield was immense for them offensively too. Veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman, second baseman Ozzie Albies, third baseman Austin Riley and shortstop Dansby Swanson all were leaned on heavily.
Going into this year, pitching was the biggest question mark for the Braves, particularly their bullpen. Before the season, the Braves brought in veteran starters Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to add to their core of young pitchers, as their star Mike Soroka was returning from an injury. Their bullpen was led by closer Will Smith, but it was full of unproven pitchers and players who had not played in the major leagues in years.
In the first half of the year, the Braves did not start off well due to injuries to their key players. Travis d’Arnaud picked up an injury and Soroka tore his achilles again. On top of that, outfielder Marcell Ozuna was arrested for domestic violence and did not return to the team. Even with these issues, Acuna, Freeman and Albies were all elected to the All Star game.
On July 10, everything changed for the Braves. Acuna went up to get a ball and landed awkwardly on his knee, tearing his ACL and seemingly dooming the Braves chances of making it to the playoffs. Up to that point, Acuna was having a great season batting a .283 average on a .394 on base percentage with 24 home runs.
Because the Braves lost Acuna, they had to find replacements in the outfield for him, so they brought in Jorge Soler from the Kansas City Royals, former Brave Adam Duvall from the Miami Marlins, Eddie Rosario from the Cleveland Indians and Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs.
Even with everything stacked against them the Braves managed to make the playoffs, though they were in a stacked division. They made it thanks to the team rallying together after Acuna’s injury. The new outfielders were able to hold their own and the bullpen was able to get the job done even with their issues coming into the season.
In their first playoff series, they beat the Milwaukee Brewers in four games. After losing game one, the Braves won the next three thanks to dominant pitching from everyone, especially starters Max Fried in game two and rookie Ian Anderson in game three, neither giving up a single run in either game. One of the big offensive pieces in this series was Pederson, who had five RBI’s, four of them coming in game four.
In the NLDS they faced the Dodgers. The Braves came in as the massive underdogs. Not only did the Dodgers have 18 more wins than the Braves, they were also the reigning World Series champions. None of that mattered though as the Braves were able to win in six games and advance to the World Series.
The Braves won the first two games against the Dodgers because of a walk-off double from Riley in game one, and in game two Rosario hit a walkoff single that Swanson scored on. After losing in game three, the Braves completely dominated game four thanks to four RBI’s from Rosario and a very strong game from the bullpen.
After losing in game five, the Braves bounced back and won the pennant in game six thanks to another strong game from Rosario with three more RBI’s and another very strong game from the bullpen.
In the World Series the Braves faced off against the Houston Astros. The Braves once again upset the favorite and won the World Series in six games. The Braves dominated with their pitching in all four wins, even after Charlie Morton broke his leg. Anderson pitched a five inning no hitter in game three and Fried also did not allow a hit in game six.
Soler led the offense with six RBIs and three home runs, which won him the World Series MVP. He is the second Venuzelan player to win it.
Looking back at the trades general manager Alex Anthopoulos made at the deadline, all four played major parts in the Braves pulling off the impossible. The Braves proved this year that you do not always have to be the best team on paper to win the World Series. Sometimes all it takes is a team getting hot at the right moments to win it all.