By Cole Parkinson
In a rather convincing World Series win, the Atlanta Braves were crowned the world champions.
After winning the National League East Division for the fourth straight season, I don’t think it’s wrong to say they weren’t the favourite to win considering the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers both won 107 and 106 games, respectively.
And while this has been stated over and over since the Braves won the WS, it really is quite amazing how they were able to put this streak together without their best player — Ronald Acuna Jr. Acuna went down with an ACL injury in early July which resulted in his season-ending.
Marcell Ozuna was also removed from the roster in late May after he was arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
But thanks to how the MLB playoffs work, the Giants would play the Wild Card winning team, which just happened to be the Dodgers.
Atlanta meanwhile faced off against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Division Series. And while the Brewers weren’t the Dodgers or Giants, they aren’t any easy to beat team either.
The Braves were able to dispatch the Brewers in four games thanks to big performances from Charlie Morton, Max Fried, Austin Riley, Joe Pederson, Will Smith, and Freddie Freeman — who hit the series-clinching home run in the eighth inning of Game 4.
The first series also signified how big those trades in July by GM Alex Anthopoulos were. They traded for Pederson from the Chicago Cubs, Adam Duvall from the Miami Marlins, and Jorge Soler from the Kansas City Royals.
All three outfielders were able to get into games and provide tons of offence that was missing due to Acuna’s injury.
Heading into the NL Championship Series, they once again were up against the Goliath Los Angeles Dodgers. The Braves blew a 3-1 series lead on the Dodgers last NLCS, which had to be another huge motivating factor for Atlanta.
And while the series went six games, I think it felt like Atlanta was the better team every game except Game 5.
The Braves almost went up 3-0 in Game 3 until they gave up four runs in the eighth inning, which resulted in a 6-5 loss. But that didn’t deter Atlanta at all as they were able to lay a beatdown on Los Angeles in a 9-2 rout.
Eddie Rosario really hit his stride in the game as he hit a pair of home runs with four RBI.
On the brink of elimination, the Dodgers were able to take Game 5 11-2, but once again, the Braves were able to bounce right back to advance to the World Series with a 4-2 win.
Rosario was named the NLCS MVP after collecting 14 hits in the series, including three home runs, nine RBI, a .607 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of 1.040.
After beating the juggernaut Dodgers, to me, it felt like Atlanta was a team of destiny in 2021. Sure, the Houston Astros looked real good in the ALCS, but there was something about the Braves. The fact they were able to rebound after a rough stretch in the middle of summer, they were able to still collect 88 wins. And while 88 wins isn’t all that great — the Blue Jays won 91 games and still missed the playoffs — they were able to get hot at the right time.
With Houston having home-field advantage, the fact Atlanta was able to split the first two games was a great start for the Braves. Soler, Duvall, Austin Riley, Freeman, and Travis d’Arnaud were hot at the plate in the first two games and drove in the majority of runs. With three games at home, it felt like if Atlanta won at least two of those games, they would be in great shape. The fact they had already won in Houston had to be comforting for Braves fans too.
Games 3 and 4 were both tight games, that ended with only one run wins for the Braves. In Game 3, d’Arnaud and Riley drove in the runs for a 2-0 win. Ian Anderson had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning, but was lifted for A.J. Minter. After Minter, Luke Jackson and Tyler Matzek continued the shutout before closer Will Smith slammed the door once again in the ninth.
Game 4 was just as close as the Braves would edge out a 3-2 win. Dansby Swanson and Soler wanted home runs, and Riley once again drove in another run to secure the win and 3-1 series lead. The Braves once again extensively used their bullpen as six pitchers were used.
Game 5 saw tons of runs scored and a 9-5 Astros win.
Heading into Game 6, the series shifted again to Houston. And this time, the Braves combined for both great pitching and great hitting as they won the game 7-0 and the series 4-2.
Soler hit an absolute mammoth three-run home run in the third inning, which was followed up by a Swanson two-run shot in the fifth. Freeman would drive in the last two runs on a double in the fifth and a home run in the seventh. Fried went six innings, allowing on four hits and collecting six strikeouts. Matzek was masterful in his two innings of work as he struck out four and only gave up one hit. Smith finished his great playoffs with another scoreless inning.
Soler was also crowned the World Series MVP.
Looking at the Braves roster, they definitely had a ton of great players and the fact they were able to play their best baseball during October was obviously the biggest reason they were able to win the WS. After disappointing playoff performances in the last four years, it was nice to see them finally overtake the Dodgers in the NLCS. And it’s still pretty hard to root for the Astros after their cheating in 2017, so I was all-in on the Braves.
Overall, it was fantastic to be back to a regular MLB season and baseball will be missed for the next several months before pitchers and catchers report in the early spring.