The Atlanta Braves wrapped up their regular season by clinching the National League (NL) East Division title over the San Francisco Giants leading 6-0 on Sept. 20, but that has not been the highlight of their winning streak. Former Braves player and Hall of Famer Chipper Jones described their regular season as, “Very consistent, I think they exceeded expectations. Most people had them winning somewhere around 90 games this year and to come out and win 97, they played extremely well.”
Centerfielder Ronald Acuña Jr.’s name comes with praise for his performance in each game. Competing for a spot as the fifth player in MLB history to go 40 and 40 (40 homeruns and 40 steals), Acuña fell short of this goal due to a pulled groin muscle, which limited his playing time. First baseman Freddie Freeman had an outstanding MVP caliber season hitting 38 homeruns and 121 RBIs. The Braves offense also featured newcomer third baseman Josh Donaldson, who Jones defined as “unreal.” He really came into form during the course of the regular season and was among the league-leading hitters in several offensive categories.
With past experience himself as third baseman for the Braves, Jones spoke about Donaldson with high regards stating, “He’s better defensively than I was. He has hit the lights out of it with almost 40 homers and almost 100 RBIs. When you’re Freddie Freeman’s security blanket in the middle of that lineup, you better produce, and he has.” On the bump, the Braves saw many talented pitchers, not the least of which was young phenom, Mike Soroka, along with southpaw, Max Fried. These great pitchers were just a few of the fresh faces on the 2019 pitching roster. With a long roster of exciting players full of talent and personality, their season has been far from boring.
As the Braves dove deeper into ending their regular season, they were able to top it off with a second consecutive NL East Division title which placed them first in their division for the playoff rounds. Junior Hayden Morehouse described the regular season this year in one word, “successful.”
When asked if he watched the Braves clinch, Jones answered, “I was watching, and I was thinking they were right where they should be. This is what we expect of our Atlanta Braves year after year, and I think if we are not in the NL playoffs, it’s a disappointment.” Pitcher Mike Foltynewicz started for the Braves on the mound and pitched eight straight innings closing the hole for only three hits. At bat, Brian McCann was able to drill a two-run homer in the six inning which resulted in a victorious champagne pour on him at the end of the game.
“It’s character, it’s chemistry, it’s an extremely close-knit team. If they have a bad game, they flush it and move on to the next one. It takes a really confident group to be able to do that,” Jones said.
Dean of Students Mary Stephenson said, “The team’s youth and energy are what we’ve been waiting for.”
Matched up against St. Louis in NL Division Series games, this Atlanta team was able to pull off a win on Oct. 4 after a loss the night before in game one. The atmosphere at this game was like no other featuring rap star, Quavo Huncho, who threw out the first pitch of the game. Foltynewicz threw seven straight innings dominating each of those. Leftfielder Adam Duvall hit a pinch-hit homer, and the Braves ended up tying the best out of five games to 1-1 with a 3-0 win over St. Louis.
Unaffected by their change in location, the Braves were able to secure a win against St. Louis in Busch Stadium for their third game on Oct. 6. They were able to take a 2-1 series lead in the NL Division Series. Soroka led the mound with power while leftfielder Adam Duvall delivered a two-run single in the eighth as a pinch-hitter. Those were just a few of the many key players that led the Braves to a win for game three.
In game four, the Braves went into 10 innings attempting to secure a win over the Cardinals after winning games two and three, but they were unable to stay on top. Although shortstop Dansby Swanson got the game started with a single and a double in the top of the fifth, Freeman and second baseman Ozzie Albies were unable to bring him home which resulted in a 4-5 loss.
It is an understatement to say that the fifth game of the series did not go as the Braves had imagined. St. Louis scored 10 runs in the first inning as if no one in the bullpen could stop them. President and CEO Derek Schiller described his thoughts as he watched this game go downhill stating, “It was horrible. Gut-wrenching even. Going to a game five with all the makings of an exciting team. Then, before the first inning was even over, the lead by the St. Louis Cardinals was insurmountable. I felt so bad for all of our fans, our players, Brian Snitker and everyone who believed this season was going to be historic.” Although Donaldson was able to hit a homer in the sixth inning, the Cardinals topped the Braves 13-1.
Despite the devastating ending to the fifth game in the postseason NL Division Series, the Braves had one of the best seasons they have had in a while with a stacked team full of character, talent and impenetrable bonds. Schiller said, “Each team has its own character, but the 2019 Atlanta Braves team was very special.”
Looking into next season, Schiller with high hopes said, “We are going to win the World Series. That is our goal; that is our mission, and we are beginning to work to make that happen right now.”