The Atlanta Braves eliminated the Milwaukee Brewers and advanced to the Championship Series in the National League.
They will play against the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants, depending on who wins on Thursday night.
The Dodgers or Giants, whoever advances, look like favorites against Atlanta.
However, the Braves have hope and weapons to inflict damage.
Here are three reasons why Atlanta can allow itself to dream about a ticket to the World Series.
3. In-Form Starting Pitchers
If the Braves proved something in the NLDS against the Brewers, it is that their pitching is also a top unit, comparable with what either the Dodgers or Giants can field.
Charlie Morton lost Game 1, but hurled six quality innings, with two runs allowed and nine strikeouts, after finishing the regular season with a 14-6 record and a 3.34 ERA in 185.2 innings.
Max Fried was fantastic all season long (14-7, 3.04 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) and shut out the Brewers for six frames during Game 2.
That’s four quality starters who have the ability to keep the Braves in the game as long as they are on the mound.
To think that injured star Mike Soroka, and talented, up-and-coming lefty Tucker Davidson could be on the staff if they weren’t injured is actually a testament of the Braves’ organizational pitching depth.
The rotation is well-equipped to give Atlanta a chance to surprise.
2. Good Relief Pitching
The Braves’ starters were impressive during the NLDS, but the bullpen was even better.
In 12.2 innings covered by the Braves bullpen during the entire NLDS against Milwaukee, the unit only allowed two runs.
They came on a home run allowed by Ynoa in Game 4.
That’s good for a 1.42 ERA, if you are keeping count.
During the regular season, the Braves bullpen had the 10th-best ERA in MLB, with 3.97.
That was the sixth-best mark in the NL.
So, yes, the Giants and Dodgers have a better bullpen, but the Braves’ group is no slouch.
— Title Run Sports (@titlerunsports) October 14, 2021
A bigger test will come against whoever advances to the NLCS, but they are good enough to offer some peace of mind to the manager.
1. Freddie Freeman
Having a hitter like Freddie Freeman offers a lot of hope from a run-scoring standpoint.
In general, the Braves offense is no piece of cake, and it showed against the Brewers that it can do some damage against top pitching.
Freeman, in particular, is the Braves’ greatest hitter and biggest threat right now, but he is surrounded by capable sluggers like Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, and Joc Pederson; plus good all-around hitters such as Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Austin Riley.
The reigning NL MVP had a very good regular season, with a .300/.393/.503 line, 31 home runs, and a .896 OPS.
He drove in 83 runs, but scored a whopping 120.
Additionally, he hit the most important home run of the Braves season so far, a solo blast in a tie game against Josh Hader, no less, in the eighth inning of Game 4 to give the team a 5-4 victory and the ticket to the NLCS.
Josh Hader had not allowed a HR to a left-handed batter all season. Opponents hit .159 BA against Hader's slider this year.
Enter Freddie Freeman. pic.twitter.com/YaaNWMnkSG
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) October 13, 2021
As long as Freeman is healthy, locked, and loaded, the Braves will have a chance against either San Francisco or Los Angeles.