As the Atlanta Braves surely know, baseball is full of Cinderella stories and surprising clubs that come out of nowhere to win the World Series.
Sometimes, these teams aren’t complete strangers, but they are considered heavy “underdogs” to win.
It means that the other team is the heavy favorite.
The 1990s Braves know about this because they were routinely one of the league’s best teams, yet they were able to win just one Fall Classic, in 1995.
But back to our days: this time, the roles have changed.
The Braves, once again winners of their National League East division, are seen as the ultimate underdogs by the baseball world in their series against the 95-win Milwaukee Brewers, winners of the NL Central division.
Game 1 is scheduled for Friday afternoon, and while Milwaukee is certainly favored, it doesn’t mean that the Braves aren’t capable of swinging a surprising victory.
The series is a best-of-five affair, so no matter what happens on Friday, the losing team will have another chance to rebound.
The Worst Division Winner
At 88-73, Atlanta was by far the worst division winner in Major League Baseball.
While they were inconsistent and didn’t always play their best baseball, it is truly admirable that the Braves decided to go for it, bring some deadline acquisitions, and find their way into October despite losing their star, Ronald Acuna Jr., to a torn ACL.
Ronald Acuña Jr. has left the game with an apparent knee injury after attempting an outfield catch. pic.twitter.com/tIbuyXOQUd
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 10, 2021
The Braves also had to deal with outfielder Marcell Ozuna’s legal issues.
They were without two of their top three bats (the other being MVP Freddie Freeman) for lots of games, and that always has an impact in the standings.
The Braves had to navigate these situations while fighting with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies for the division crown until late September, when they defeated the Phils in a crucial series to secure the top spot.
Atlanta Was Good On Both Offense And Pitching
Despite all the obstacles, though, the Braves’ team stats were positive.
They were seventh in runs scored per game with 4.9, and eighth in OPS with .754.
Their pitching also answered the call and rose up to the occasion, allowing 4.1 runs per game (the sixth-best mark in MLB).
The Braves ranked eighth in both ERA (3.88) and WHIP (1.22).
Charlie Morton, Game 1 starter against Milwaukee, was a stabilizing force in the rotation with a 3.39 ERA, while Fried was a fantastic number two (3.04 ERA).
Yes, Milwaukee has breakout star Willy Adames, former MVP Christian Yelich, and other potent bats in their lineup, such as World Series winner Lorenzo Cain, up-and-coming Luis Urias, and slugging first baseman Rowdy Tellez.
But the Braves, with the deadline additions of Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler plus Freeman, breakout star Austin Riley, steady shortstop Dansby Swanson and, of course, second baseman Ozzie Albies, can make the big splash of the playoffs.
Braves trade deadline acquisitions:
Duvall: 44g .866 OPS 15 HR/39 RBI/24 R
Soler: 44g .862 OPS 10 HR/23 RBI/27 R
Rosario: 20g 1.171 OPS 6 HR/12 RBI/9 R
— Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) September 21, 2021