HOUSTON -- Now that the last obstacle has been hurdled, the Braves can forever proudly remember the year they overcame significant loss, slayed the Atlanta narrative and celebrated what might be the most satisfying World Series title in franchise history.
More than three months after seemingly being doomed by Ronald Acuña Jr.'s season-ending right knee injury, the Braves tasted ultimate October euphoria with a 7-0 win over the Astros on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park. This Game 6 victory provided the Braves with their fourth World Series championship, second since moving to Atlanta and first since 1995.
“I’m honored and blessed to be sitting here in front of you guys as a world champion,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s something you dream about, but I don’t know if you ever feel like it’s going to be a reality.”
Regarded by some as preseason World Series favorites, the Braves became underdogs as injuries and off-the-field issues removed Mike Soroka, Marcell Ozuna and Acuña from their plans. They didn’t record their first winning record until Aug. 6 -- the latest date for an eventual World Series participant, let alone a champion -- and they totaled just 88 wins, easily the fewest among MLB’s 10 playoff teams this year.
But thanks to a highly profitable Trade Deadline, the Braves transformed into a threat over the regular season’s final two months and then rolled through the playoffs, going 11-5 against the Brewers, Dodgers and Astros. In doing so, they ended what had been an MLB-long stretch of 16 consecutive postseason appearances without winning a World Series.
“We hit every bump we could possibly hit this year and somehow the car still made it to the other side,” said Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who homered and drove in two runs in Game 6. “It’s just an incredible group.”
This great group also killed the narrative about Atlanta teams choking. Once this Fall Classic ended, there would be no talk about the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI or the Braves squandering a 3-1 National League Championship Series lead against the Dodgers last year.
The Braves won three of the first four games of this year’s NLCS against the Dodgers and dethroned the defending champs in Game 6. They also protected their 3-1 World Series lead, despite seeing Charlie Morton exit Game 1 in the third inning with a fractured right fibula. At no point did they face an elimination game.
“I’m still a little numb from it all and I feel like I’ll probably be that way for a few days,” said Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, who hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning of Game 6. “But there’s no other better place for this to happen. [Atlanta] is home. So I feel right at home taking this back home.”
Freeman drilled a decisive homer against the Brewers’ Josh Hader to seal an NL Division Series that might not have been won had Joc Pederson not introduced Joctober to Atlanta. A week later, Eddie Rosario crushed a three-run homer off the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler to help decide the NLCS. But the most memorable homer of this postseason will likely be the Statcast-projected 446-foot rocket Jorge Soler sent out of Minute Maid Park during the final game of this World Series.
Soler’s three-run homer off Luis Garcia in Tuesday’s third inning will be celebrated as fondly as the David Justice home run that helped clinch the 1995 World Series for the Braves. Justice’s solo shot backed a dominant Tom Glavine, while Soler’s blast provided ample support for Max Fried's determined gem.
Fried had his right ankle stepped on by Michael Brantley in the first inning and still managed to throw six scoreless frames. His effort mirrored the resiliency the Braves showed as they followed the lead of Snitker, a man who waited 40 years to get his first shot to be a big league manager. Five years later, he owns four division titles and the distinction of joining his beloved mentor as the only men to lead the Atlanta Braves to a World Series title.
“I can’t wait to take the trophy back and show [Bobby Cox],” Snitker said.
Snitker was in the stands with his wife, Ronnie, when Cox and the Braves clinched the 1995 World Series title. He spent the hours following Tuesday’s victory shedding tears, tasting the sweet glory of champagne and praising a team that was 51-54 on July 30, the day president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos managed to acquire the World Series MVP (Soler), the NLCS MVP (Rosario) and Adam Duvall with three separate trades.
Suddenly, the landscape was different. The outfield had been reconstructed with the additions of Soler, Rosario, Duvall and Pederson, who brought swagger, attitude and regular laughter to the clubhouse after being acquired from the Cubs on July 15.
The Braves won 36 of their final 54 regular-season games going back to Aug. 3. Their .667 winning percentage within this span ranked as MLB’s third best, trailing only the Giants and Dodgers. By the time October arrived, they had become one of the game’s top teams and a true World Series threat.
As the NLDS unfolded, it was clear this team might be different from some of the others the Braves have sent to the playoffs this century. Tyler Matzek was the centerpiece for what became a dominant bullpen, and Austin Riley showed why he and Freeman both built a strong NL MVP resume. Pederson’s pearl necklace added a flair that seemed to fuel this club, which quickly erased its underdog status and became World Series champs.
“This is an organization that has been hungry for a championship for a long time,” Freeman said. “I’m so happy we got it.”