Last week, the Atlanta Braves won the World Series for the first time since 1995, defeating the Houston Astros in six games and ending the city’s painful “curse.”
To say they won it because I picked them in a roundtable would be a massive understatement to their season. Some may say that they got hot at the right time, but the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals proved that could happen to any playoff team. There’s more than luck and a great hot stretch, so how did the Atlanta Braves win the World Series?
Despite being 41-40 at the halfway point, the second half rally storyline is redundant due to the 2019 Washington Nationals (19-31 should be ingrained in our brains at this point) among other hot teams.
It all starts with the 2020 NLCS. The Braves were up 3-1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and were a win away from the pennant. However, the Dodgers would rally back and take the series in seven games. As Cody Bellinger hit a towering go-ahead home run, the Braves’ short season ended, and the Georgia sports curse continued.
Fast forward to May of 2021, Marcell Ozuna is arrested for assault and put on indefinite leave. On June 26, the Braves lost Mike Soroka for a second-consecutive season when he re-aggravated his torn achilles by walking.
Then, there’s July 10, 2021, a day of infamy in Atlanta. Ronald Acuna Jr., amid another MVP-caliber season with his 24 home runs and 17 stolen bases, tore his ACL trying to catch a fly ball.
The Braves were down three critical pieces but not out. The Braves got hot when things mattered the most, the trade deadline. Leading up to it, Atlanta had yet to sniff a game above .500 and were on the verge of selling their major assets away. However, by going 8-9 over the second half of July, the Braves were viewed as buyers.
Jorge Soler was picked up from the Kansas City Royals. Soler did not have the same numbers he did back in 2019, but he still provided the power. Adam Duvall was reunited with Atlanta after a short stint with the Miami Marlins. Eddie Rosario got picked up from the Cleveland Baseball team (because the Guardians name is getting sued, this will be the team’s temporary name). On top of that, the Braves pounced on the Cubs’ fire sale and picked up Joc Pederson at a cheap price.
Together, the Braves had revamped their outfield, but a remarkable push to the postseason involved more than just them as the infield was also very, very nasty. Freddie Freeman was coming off an MVP season and was a little slow out of the gate. Thanks in large part to his son Charlie, Freeman became an All-Star and ultimately worked his batting average up to .300.
Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley emerged as powerful threats in the lineup while Dansby Swanson was not far behind in terms of the production he provided. Together, they were one of the best infields of this century as only Swanson did not have a 30-homer season.
On the pitching side, Charlie Morton proved that things do get better with age as he posted a 200-strikeout season. Max Fried was still productive despite regular season losses and an increase in his ERA. While Ian Anderson continued to prove he belonged in the rotation, Huascar Ynoa was getting valuable innings and showed strong potential in limited action.
With all these pieces in tow, the Braves went from being mediocre to division champions behind a 37-19 finish over the last two months of the season. The doubters will say that the Mets were the Mets, and the Phillies could not capitalize on the opportunities they had, but the Braves were running this show.
As a No. 3 seed though, they had to prove themselves against the best rotation in the league in the Milwaukee Brewers.
Things looked dire for Atlanta as Corbin Burnes and the Brewers took game one by a 2-1 score, but then Atlanta outpitched both Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta en route to two consecutive shutouts. The final nail in Milwaukee’s season would come in game four though as Freeman launched a go-ahead home run off Josh Hader to secure the 5-4 victory and 3-1 series victory over the Brewers.
From there, it was the revenge matchup against the Dodgers. Atlanta got to host the series for some odd reason (the Dodgers had 106 wins, Atlanta had 88) and immediately took games one and two via walk-off hits. The Dodgers would win a close game three before being put on the edge with a blowout loss in game four.
Atlanta had a chance to dismantle the defending World Series champions with a 3-1 series lead. Although the Braves lost game five, they were able to send the Dodgers home with a two-run victory in game six.
The only thing standing in their way was the Astros, who had quieted the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. Even I had my doubts going into this World Series, but when Atlanta took game one and rocked Framber Valdez in the process, their chances of winning increased. Although they lost game two, the Braves would return to Cobb County and stymie the Astros offense over the next two games.
Now up 3-1, Atlanta could win the World Series on their turf, and it almost appeared to be that way when Duvall hit a first-inning grand slam, but the Astros rallied and forced a game six. That game six ended up sealing the comeback season as the Braves shutout the Astros behind absolute moonshots and incredible pitching.
Thanks in large part to their all-around talents, the braves are World Series champions and have an entire offseason to celebrate it before they try to run it back in a very intriguing 2022 season.