The Braves have done it before… so many times. But this one had a different feel.
More satisfying, perhaps.
After all, this team languished with more losses than wins for much of the season. He suffered devastating injuries and even had to face legal problems.
At the trade deadline, he had to essentially rebuild his outfield group.
But on Thursday, the Braves were there, drinking champagne, smoking cigars and celebrating another division title.
Ian Anderson delivered another dominant performance on the mound, Jorge Soler and Austin Riley homered and Atlanta clinched its fourth consecutive NL East title after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3.
The Braves swept the key three-game series from the Phillies, their closest pursuers.
“We just try to stay there and figure this out,” said driver Brian Snitker. “It’s amazing what these guys achieved after everything we’ve been through.”
The Braves didn’t break the .500 mark until Aug. 6, but they did win their 21st division title since moving from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966.
They will face in the postseason the team from their former host city: the Brewers, champions of the National Division Central. The series begins on October 8 in Milwaukee and the club that wins three of five games will continue to advance in the playoffs.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” considered first baseman Freddie Freeman. “We had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of things that could have derailed us.”
Venezuelan star outfielder Ronald Acuña was out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury. Former ace Mike Soroka couldn’t make the long-awaited comeback after tearing his Achilles tendon a second time.
To make matters worse, Dominican Marcell Ozuna, the soul of the squad that made it to the seventh game of the 2020 Championship Series, was arrested at the end of May, after an altercation with his wife, and did not return to the team.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos made several moves to integrate his garden with Soler, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario from Puerto Rico.
Soler, Atlanta’s first batter in the game, got his team off to a good start on its march toward the division title. The Cuban hit the first home run of his career in the opening turn of a game, to reach 26 home runs this season. When he was 3-2, he caught Kyle Gibson’s pitch (4-6).
Riley, reinforcing his unexpected MVP bid, extended the lead with his 33rd homer in the fourth. He made it 5-0 after driving in another run with a broken bat single in the fifth inning.
That lead was more than enough for Anderson (9-5), who appears to regain his rookie form in the 2020 postseason. (AP)