By Brad Senkiw
So this wasn’t a dream regular season for the Atlanta Braves, but it still produced the same result as the previous three years.
The Braves won the National League East Division, holding off the Philadelphia Phillies by 6.5 games and the New York Mets by 11.5 games.
Atlanta didn’t win 100 contests or capture the right to play at home in the Major League Baseball playoffs, but what this organization did to overcome adversity and take advantage of an opportunity is what ultimately this season will be remembered for, no matter what happens in the postseason against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Braves opened 2021 with four consecutive losses, struggled to find an identity, lost its most talented player in outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. to an ACL injury and was left for dead by late July.
However, the front office saw a Mets team that couldn’t hit and couldn’t survive with its ace pitcher on the shelf as well as a Phillies squad that seemingly always struggles to finish seasons well. So Atlanta made moves, bringing in Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario to shore up a depleted outfield.
Eventually, the newcomers jelled with the veterans. Austin Riley turned from a question mark at third base long term into a viable MVP candidate. Reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman found his swing at the plate, and Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson turned in career seasons.
The pitching staff settled down when Max Fried returned to throwing like an ace, and the ageless Charlie Morton gave Atlanta the veteran presence it chased in the past with higher-paid arms like Cole Hamels.
The bullpen isn’t the best in baseball anymore, but the Braves got by, and now they get the honor of taking on a Brewers squad that won 95 games and the NL Central.
When this five-game series begins Friday at 4:37 p.m., the Braves are a team that accomplished the goal they could control: winning the division. There’s no sweating out a wild-card, winner-advance showdown. Nor is Atlanta limping into the postseason just hoping to stay around for a few games.
The way this team hung together, never stopped giving effort and found its stride can certainly carry over into these playoffs. Brian Snitker has managed his tail off in 2021.
Atlanta doesn’t spend money like the Dodgers or Yankees, but this organization isn’t cheap, either. It’s shrewd.
That mentality permeated through the team off the field, and that led to it doing the same on the field, which the Brewers are about to experience.