However the season ends, the Braves still mattering in the fading days of summer is testament to the team’s culture and resilience. The Braves had endless excuses for falling off the map. Acuna, possibly the league MVP, was gone. Outfielder Marcell Ozuna was gone. Starter Mike Soroka never arrived.
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud missed 86 games and his substitutes were unsatisfactory. The young starter mug Ian Anderson has now missed a month. The bullpen was driving insane at times. The offense would publish 20 runs in one day and five combined in the next three games.
Sometimes it’s not your year. It appeared that this was the case with these braves. But when many saw a dead end, General Manager Alex Anthopoulos found a detour.
A season of inconsistencies has had one constant: a disappointing NL East. Perhaps the most competitive in baseball, the division has proven to be just that, not because of its strength, but because of its flawed trio at the top.
These circumstances led Anthopoulos to play several low risk hands last month. He bought outfielder Joc Pederson and catcher Stephen Vogt after the All-Star hiatus in hopes of sending a message to the clubhouse that the organization still believes in them after the Acuna injury.
Anthopoulos wasn’t finished yet. He had the most active trade deadline day in the division, adding outfielders Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario and emergency helper Richard Rodriguez on July 30th. The move from Duvall received special praise as so many in the clubhouse knew him from his last stint with the Braves.
Soler and Pederson have put offensive in a line-up that was painfully thin not so long ago. Rodriguez has been a breath of fresh air in his Braves days and gave Snitker a weapon that he can use in any location with high leverage.
Suddenly the Braves were rejuvenated. After losing two of three in a highly competitive series to the Brewers, the Braves swept the Cardinals onto the streets. They came out of victory at the Nationals and were content with a series victory. Then they took two out of three from the Reds, and while the finale ended on a sour note, Bobby Cox’s two-out-of-three mantra went on.
They won the series opener in Washington on Friday, their eighth win in 10 games. They averaged 5.4 runs per game in this section.
“If you can get the pitcher up and running, let them do good pitches to get you out, it just shows the depth of that lineup,” said Shortstop Dansby Swanson. “It gives us more opportunities to score runs in different ways, be it from the walks or the plate discipline, to get better counts. We’ve done a damn good job over the past few weeks. “
The upcoming schedule could be the Braves’ great opportunity. They began the journey with a victory over the remnants of the Nationals. You will then travel to Miami and Baltimore, a chance to climb further above .500.
“It’s been a challenging year,” said Swanson. “We have a long seven-week route ahead of us. We have just battled our way through not only the adversities of the year but some of the trips and long nights that we have had. Even the rain delays and plays into the wee hours of the morning (Friday). … We’ll make a good step forward to start the road trip. It was nice for us to set the tone for these next eight games. “
While the Braves keep an eye on teams for their winter trip to Cabo, the Mets will endure a 13-game stretch against the Giants and Dodgers. If they survive – they are already 0-1 – their schedule will soften the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the Phillies – now 9-3 in their last 12 – are on the same track against the Reds, Diamondbacks and Padres. Those are two postseason hopes and terrifying Arizona that the Braves will see four times next month.
The condition of NL Ost has been demonstrated in the last few days. The Braves went from first to third place with a crushing defeat. A day later they were tied up again. Smart Money says this movement will continue for the next six weeks.
Ultimately, the Braves couldn’t win the division. Depending on the circumstances, they play with house money. But that they play a role in mid-August is all in all a masterpiece. How the team overcame the accident and survived so many difficult days is a good sign for the future. The infrastructure of the franchise is conducive to long-term success.
But an immediate question remains: will the 2021 season be remembered as the ultimate success story in which the team secured a place in the postseason despite all the adversities, or just a moral victory that the campaign wasn’t a total disappointment?