Braves beat Brewers: thoughts of a lifelong fan

Joc Pederson (22) high-fives Dansby Swanson after hitting a solo home run in game one of the NLDS. Despite the homer, the Braves lost the game, their only defeat of the series. // Photo courtesy of Stacy Revere Getty Images

After climbing back in the NL East and taking over the division lead in the last couple months of the season, the Atlanta Braves cruised relatively smoothly through the Division Series, taking three out of four against the Milwaukee Brewers. While the Brewers did have the better regular season record by five games, the Braves matched up well against Milwaukee’s stellar starting pitching, taking advantage of a slightly depleted bullpen.

This year’s team was in a much better place than they were last year coming into the NLDS. The Braves had to get through a tough Cincinnati team last year in the expanded Wild Card round, and then had to fly to Houston to play Miami in the division series, which was the first series Miami ever lost in the playoffs in their history. Starting pitching was not as much of a luxury for Atlanta last year, relying more on their hitting, especially from Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud come the playoffs.

For this year’s matchup, Milwaukee lost two relievers due to injuries, including their setup man Devin Williams after punching a wall. As the four games played out, the lack of Williams and other Brewers relievers clearly played a role in the Braves ability to squeeze games at the very end. Milwaukee won game one at home in a huge pitchers duel between Charlie Morton and Corbin Burnes. The game was the first of multiple games so far this postseason where the Braves committed a baserunning blunder, or “baseruining” as I have called it now.

Yet, the Braves took games two and three in 3-0 wins both characterized by excellent starting pitching by Max Fried and Ian Anderson. Those were the kind of games that used to make me nervous in the postseason. Games where we clearly should have had the upper hand, play well for a while, but then would find a way to spoil it at the end. Does that sound like any other Atlanta teams? Thankfully that has not happened yet.

Game four was another nail biter, with Freddie Freeman hitting the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning being the kind of moment that the Braves and other Atlanta sports teams have been lacking for a long time. The moment where we have a guy like Freddie who can do the one thing that’s needed at a huge crucial point in the game to win, without there being enough time for us to blow it.

At the time of writing we are up two games to none on the Dodgers in the NLCS, which is not a statement I would have said could have been remotely possible four months ago. We knew this Braves team was talented, even when they were slumping early in the season. They picked themselves up, may have lost a couple weapons along the way, but still showed some true professionalism and learned their lessons from the last couple years. Austin Riley’s emergence this year has changed the landscape of our batting order as well as the entire Braves infield hitting 30 home runs a piece.

I am not yet at the point where I can think winning the Dodgers series is a definite possibility. Getting through three games in a row in Los Angeles is a huge order, which will probably include another Max Scherzer appearance. Getting one win in Los Angeles would likely get us through to the World Series, assuming we can win one of game six or seven at home. That is still asking a lot though of an 88 win team that has to get through a 106 win team.

What this lifelong Braves fan can tell you though is that this Braves team always finds a way to make themselves relevant. They play classy baseball and have a knack for gutting out wins at the tail end. I have watched a lot of postseason baseball in my life, and those are some traits that I have seen replicated in other World Series champions, notably from National League champions. This may be our year, it may not be. Regardless we have done about as much as one could have hoped. Now it is just a matter of being the lucky ones that make it all the way.