Time to party like it’s 1995! Last week, the Atlanta Braves won the 2021 World Series by defeating the Houston Astros four games to two, shocking the baseball world.
This season was a rollercoaster for the Braves. During Spring Training, they were a consensus top five team in all of Major League Baseball (MLB). They were playing in arguably the weakest division in baseball in the NL East, and things were looking up. But everything went downhill early in the season. They lost their first four games, and eight of their first 12. They crawled through the season inconsistently and found themselves stuck in mediocrity, not living up to pre-season expectations.
The Braves weren’t above .500 until Aug. 6. That’s 111 games into the season. If you told me on Aug. 6 that the Braves would be world champs, I would probably spit out my drink.
In late May, slugger Marcell Ozuna, one of the Braves’ best hitters, was arrested on domestic violence charges. To add on to that, Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves best player and one of the top five players in the MLB, tore his ACL on July 10. At this point, Acuña Jr. was fifth in the MLB in home runs and second in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). These were huge hits for the Braves.
Despite this, the rest of the locker room stepped it up and turned the season around. First baseman Freddie Freeman, second basemen Ozzie Albies, third basemen Austin Riley, shortstop Dansby Swanson and mid-season acquisitions Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario came up huge for the Braves in the latter half of the season. They won 35 of their last 53 games, locking up the NL East and clinching a playoff berth.
Even at the start of the postseason, no one thought the Braves had any chance at a deep run. According to Fangraphs, they had a 9.6% chance to win the World Series, which was the second worst of any non-Wild Card team in the playoffs. They used this outside doubt as fuel, though, and proceeded to dominate in the postseason.
They beat the Brewers handily in the NLDS, winning three in a row after dropping Game One, only allowing four runs in those three games. Two of the games were shutouts behind some dominant starting pitching from Ian Anderson and Max Fried.
They didn’t stop there. The Braves beat up on the World Series favorites in the NLCS, the Los Angeles Dodgers, four games to two. The Dodgers won 18 more games than the Braves in the regular season, but none of that mattered in the NLCS. The Braves took the first two games by one run, dominated Game Four and then later shut everything down in Atlanta in Game Six to advance to the World Series.
Outfielder Eddie Rosario, a trade deadline acquisition, was 14-25 in the series with three home runs and nine RBI’s, carrying the team to victory.
In the World Series, the Braves faced the Astros, a team that is universally hated outside of Houston for their cheating scandal back in 2017. It was a tight series that the Braves won in six games, wrapping things up with a 7-0 victory. Outfielder Jorge Soler started the party with a nuke that landed outside of Minute Maid Park, going 446 feet. It was an absolute pimp job that was reminiscent of Albert Pujols’ home run in 2005.
It was a fitting ending, as Freddie Freeman caught the last out to clinch it for the Braves. Freeman has spent all of his 12 seasons with the team, and he is one of the franchise’s all time best players, a five-time All Star and MVP.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Freeman said afterwards to Ken Rosenthal with a giddy smile on his face. “This is everything you work for. For us to be world champs, that’s awesome to hear.”
Freeman is the heart and soul of the team, and seeing how joyful he was to win a World Series is something that all sports fans can enjoy.
The Braves, a team that went through a lot of ups and downs in 2021, defied all odds and are now World Series Champions.