Braves News: Atlanta Clinches Second Straight Division Title

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another ticket punched to the Major League Baseball playoffs. This time, it’s the young, exciting challengers from the National League East. The Atlanta Braves cruised past the San Francisco Giants, 6-0, on Friday night to improve to 95-60 and lock down the division.

The Braves did it the same way they have all year. They got great pitching — eight shutout innings from Mike Foltynewicz — and the 41st home run of the season from wunderkind Ronald Acuna Jr. They didn’t even need their bullpen, which the front office rebuilt at the trade deadline. It’s been very good, as have most of the Braves.

Returning to the top

The Braves dominated the NL East in the 1990s and early 2000s, with the three-headed pitching monster of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz starring. Chipper Jones became a Hall of Famer, and the Braves won their first World Series in Atlanta in 1995. (They probably should have won more, but this postseason thing is tricky. Just ask the Dodgers.)

Then, for about a decade, the Phillies, Mets and Nationals took turns controlling the NL East. The Braves rarely were bad, but they were no longer the dominant force of the division.

That changed last year, when a Braves team many thought was a year or two away showed it was very much ready to contend for titles. This year’s team entered as the favorite, and after a slow start couldn’t really be stopped.

Atlanta was 30-27 and three games out of first place when May ended, but since then, the Braves are 65-23 and have left everyone else in the dust. After an offseason when the Phillies took Bryce Harper from the Nationals and the Mets did everything they could to contend immediately, it’s the Braves who again rule the roost.

Playoff potential

Now what about that tricky postseason? Last year, the Braves lost the division series in four games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. This year, because its record is better, Atlanta won’t have to mess with the Dodgers until the NLCS (if at all).

If the current standings hold, the Braves would face the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, with the Dodgers facing the wild-card survivor in the other series.

Can the Braves get back to that 1995 glory? The starting pitching has been solid, though it perhaps doesn’t match up with some of the other NL contenders. But a lineup with young, hungry budding stars like Acuna and Ozzie Albies intermixed with veteran sluggers like Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman is dangerous.

This could be the year Atlanta puts it all together again.

Written by GMS staff report

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