A fourth straight National League East title didn’t look like the probable outcome for the Atlanta Braves this season. Ace pitcher, Mike Soroka, out for the year. Big bat Marcell Ozuna out for the majority of the season battling legal issues. Ronald Acuna, Jr, in the middle of what looked like an MVP performance suffered a season-ending injury. At the beginning of August, the Braves were still holding a below .500 record. So how did they win their 21st division title, the only team in MLB history to do so?
Trailing five games behind first place into the second half of the season, the Braves rallied for a remarkable rate of winning behind the bats of Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley. The trade for Adam Duvall amounted to homeruns hit FOR the Braves, instead of against them, as happened in the first half of the season. Starting pitchers Max Fried and Charlie Morton shut down opposing teams time and time again. And what appeared to be low-profile acquisitions by the team turned out to be “right place, right time” pick-ups, as Jorge Soler and Edie Rosario have made outstanding contributions at the plate.
With all that, it must be mentioned that the National League East is not a tough division. At 86 wins as of today, the Braves hold first place with the least wins of any of the 2021 division champs. But they have managed that three times previously and hold the record for number of division championships with under 90 wins.
However deep they manage to go in the off-season, we know two things–they finish the regular season with a series against the Mets this weekend, and then face the Brewers next week in yet another quest for a World Series title.