This is how the Braves roll through October. So they got back into the National League Championship Series on Thursday for the first time since 2001. Starting Monday, they will meet the Los Angeles Dodgers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The Dodgers, not the Braves, are the team to beat in the NL. But the Braves, like the Dodgers, are 5-0 this postseason after ditching the Cincinnati Reds and the Marlins. The Braves have a stacked offensive, an airtight bullpen, and in their NL Division Series against the Marlins, three young starters who have promoted.
Now that they have made their first NLCS in nearly two decades, they can rightly keep an eye on their first World Series title in 25 years.
“The guys started to believe later this year,” said manager Brian Snitker after the Braves advanced. “We really put the whole thing together. Once we’ve tackled that initial pitching bug, it’s really, really good to have a few of these young people step in and suddenly make progress. “
The depth of rotation is a lingering issue even after Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright silenced the Marlins. After Mike Soroka tore his right Achilles tendon in early August and freed the Braves from their ace, they waited for Cole Hamels to break off the list of injured. Then Hamels was also closed after dropping just 52 places in 2020. The Atlanta starters finished the regular season with an ERA of 5.51, the worst in the NL. It was a reason – and a compelling one – to doubt how much the Braves’ insult and bullpen could shoulder.
But Max Fried, Anderson, and Wright all addressed those concerns. Fried, a 26-year-old left-hander, is a Cy Young candidate. Anderson, a 22-year-old rookie, has not allowed a run in 11⅔ innings after the season. The 25-year-old Wright threw six goalless innings in Thursday’s 7-0 win over the Marlins. He retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced.
Will the Braves’ test against the Dodgers get tougher? Yes. Do you need more than three starters in a seven-game series with no days off? Also yes.
The NLDS still showed that Atlanta has arms to complement its shining strengths. In total, the Braves have allowed five runs in their five playoff games, four of which were shutouts. Wright typed the last in his postseason debut.
“We reversed the script,” said Freeman on Thursday. “Everyone spoke about our offense. Now everyone will be talking about our pitching. “
Freeman is the loud metronome of Atlanta’s command. He scores behind Acuña, one of the game’s best young talents. Freeman scores ahead of Ozuna, who led the NL with 18 homers and 56 RBI. Freeman took that place and made an intriguing MVP case. In the most advanced stats, he was only behind Juan Soto, the star of the Washington Nationals. And while Soto played 47 games and broke his bid, Freeman appeared in all 60 games.
Since Freeman made his debut in 2010, the Braves have won four league titles and achieved four other runners-up. They ended up having four playoff runs in the NLDS and one more in the NL wildcard game. That year, before they even entered the field, Freeman tested positive for the novel coronavirus and had a fever that rose to 104.5 degrees. Freeman recounted saying a prayer and pleading, “Please don’t take me.”
“I wasn’t ready. That night I got a little worrisome, ”Freeman told reporters in July. “I took NyQuil, Tylenol, and went to sleep. I was just scared of going to bed. I was afraid if I stabbed higher in my sleep what would happen. I woke up at 7 a.m. the next morning and was 101.5 years old. So I said, “Phew, I can take 101.” ”
After the Braves beat the Marlins and Freeman thought about the season, he didn’t say much about his coronavirus experience, about how different his summer could have been. He was ready to discuss how important it is for his team to leave NLDS behind. The rest, he thought, will be unpacked later.
“I’m just glad that the narrative is changing from winning the series to defeating the division series – there isn’t really much to tell now,” said Freeman. “So we’re going to start our own narrative. That’s the great thing about it. “
The Braves’ fate changed when Cristian Pache caught last Thursday. The next few moments, however, fitted a lazy July afternoon rather than a win in October that countered years of disappointment.
Pache stuck a finger in the air before quickly sticking it to his side. Shortstop Dansby Swanson matched his hat and hugged Ozzie Albies in second place. Then the Braves formed a high five line on the hill, their coaches stepping out of the dugout, and finally looking like a team whose goal is higher. They looked over the hump.