Paul Newberry Associated Press
ATLANTA – Having eliminated the post-season curse, the Atlanta Braves have every reason to believe this could be another stellar October.
They don’t lack confidence, that’s for sure, after chasing the New York Mets in the gritty NL East race.
Heading into their NL Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves were arrogantly playing a hard-core team that won the title a year ago.
“The experience in qualifying is huge,” said Dansby Swanson Braves Shortstop. “The only way you can get it is to go through it.”
Atlanta sure went through it.
The franchise that amassed an unprecedented streak of 14 consecutive titles in the 1990s and 2000s into another memorable run that began with the first of five consecutive NL East Championships in 2018.
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Two years ago, the Braves cut a nearly two-decade drought with no post-season streak victory. Last season, they finally returned to the top with their first World Championship title in 26 years.
No more fussing about all those interval swings.
“I am so grateful and appreciative that we were able to get past him and were able to climb the ladder every year,” Swanson said.
Phillies are in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, finishing far from the Braves and Mets in the NL East, but are good enough to get their last wild card berth.
They’re making the most of their post-season comeback, sweeping the first-round series in St. Louis to earn another shot at their division rival.
No one will remember the regular season’s 14-game deficit if Philly manages to strike a shockwave in this best-of-five series, which began late Tuesday with Braves ace Max Fried (14-7) against Phillies left-back Ranger Suárez (10). -7).
Velez already overcame manager Joe Girardi’s dismissal in early June and several serious injuries.
“We are definitely not afraid of a challenge,” said Rhys Hoskins, Phillies first team captain. “We’ve run into some hurdles… and that makes it even sweeter.”
Atlanta looked destined for wild card, at best, after falling 10 runs behind the Mets at the end of May.
Since then, the Braves have been the best baseball team with a score of 78-34. More importantly, they swept a three-game streak from New York in the final weekend of the regular season, capturing another league title in the tiebreak—bye in the first round—when both teams finished 101-61.
The significance of this farewell became apparent when the Mets were knocked out by the San Diego Padres in a wild card series.
Ozzie Albies pulled it off after breaking his finger, but it seems unlikely that the second baseman will join the Braves in the series.
Manager Brian Snitker said the Albies are focused on regaining strength and flexibility over the next several days, which likely means his sights will be set in the NL Championship Series if the Braves advance.
The outlook was more optimistic for bowler Spencer Strider, the rookie who became the first player in baseball history to allow fewer than 100 hits while scoring 200.
Strider has not been pitched since September 18 due to a tilt injury. If he is allowed to return to the series, he can remain a rookie or be used out of the game to give him a chance to rebuild his arm strength.
“It’s all a choice, quite frankly,” Snicker said. “We’re still kind of thinking about what’s right for us and him and how to use it.”
The Braves announced Monday that Strider has become the last of their young stars to agree to a long-term contract – a $75 million six-year deal.
Swanson’s leadership qualities and no-nonsense approach to the team’s younger players earned him a nickname at the club: Sheriff.
Swanson laughed at the nickname.
He said, “Young kids, they just started calling me mayor for whatever reason. They act like I’m running this ship, like, a stern and tight ship, which isn’t quite the case. I think I’m the biggest hipster on the team.”
But, he added, “I deal with them every now and then because they’re young and stupid.”
Fried without peel
As one of the best baseball pitchers in baseball, Fried wasn’t happy to take the bat out of his hands.
But it grew to the discretion of the NL that adopts the particular hitter rule.
“I really like handling at bat,” Fried said. “But after this first year of mine was just focusing on playing without batting or anything like that, I noticed that it allowed me to go deeper into the games with a little less tired feeling.”