These Braves look a lot different than the last time Atlanta was in first place
Behind three hits from
That might not sound like much -- it wasn't even four years ago! -- but a whole lot can change over that time. Exhibit A: Atlanta's opponent that day was the Phillies, still with Jimmy Rollins and
Every single player involved in the game's biggest play, a bases-clearing double from
The next day, a 10-inning loss to the Marlins dropped the Braves a game back of the Nationals in the division. They stumbled to a 79-83 finish, well out of postseason contention, and that's when the rebuild started. Atlanta won 67, 68 and 72 games over the next three years, revamping essentially their entire roster in the process: Freeman and
Of course, that rebuild also resulted in some pretty awesome young talent -- and they're ready to compete well ahead of schedule.
And this is just the beginning: According to MLB Pipeline, the Braves entered the spring with the second-best farm system in baseball, with enough pitching prospects to fill out two full rotations. One of them,
Did you know Luiz Gohara can hit 100 mph?— #Statcast (@statcast) November 30, 2017
The @Braves rookie, @MLB's hardest-throwing LH starter in 2017, was among the fantastic #Statcast debuts on the mound:https://t.co/9HXKt4g8WI pic.twitter.com/0BBya9sxzl
Here's where we offer the disclaimer that it's still early, that the Nationals have yet to get fully healthy, that the Phillies might be the real up-and-coming surprise in the NL East. Still, they've come a long way in four years -- and, with the Braves and Mets playing on Thursday afternoon, they also have the chance to extend that division lead.