The young Atlanta Braves are primed for another appearance in the postseason in 2020 and are looking like a threat for the World Series title. The Braves just took their latest series 3-1 at home against the division rival Nationals.The latest series has brought them to a magic number of 11 with just 18 games remaining in the regular season.
All season long the crew from Atlanta has been led by their offensive power, leaving the team with the second most runs scored in the NL, with 771, right behind the Dodgers. Braves opponents do not get much of a break when facing the star studded lineup;
The likely comeback player of the year for 2019 has been leading the Braves on their recent hot streak. Josh Donaldson went from playing 52 games in 2018 with the Blue Jays and Indians to being on the line-up card nearly every game so far this season with the Braves.
Donaldson has shown why he deserved his one-year, $23 million contract, slashing 37 home runs and 88 RBI’s thus far. Twenty-eight of the 2015 AL MVP’s home runs have all been since June 11th, helping the Braves extend their lead over the Nationals in the NL East. Braves fans started the year off wondering why the “Bringer of Rain” was signed with Austin Riley primed for his debut. The talk of the town quickly changed to when Alex Anthopoulos will sign the stud to a long-term deal.
A franchise record thirteen consecutive wins at home has led to the Braves to shift their focus on winning the division to fighting for home-field advantage in the playoffs. In a 19 game span, the team only dropped 2 games and outscored their opponents 98-55.
October is the time for the Braves to live up to the hype and perform when it really matters. Will these young players be able to handle the pressure of the postseason?
The pitching staff of the Braves have started to grow and develop series after series. Young starters Max Fried and Mike Soroka have become dominant young pitchers who have shown they can be trusted to take on the strongest of line-ups. Veteran Dallas Keuchel has started to return to his 2015 form and will likely start game one of the NLDS if he continues at this pace. Long time Brave Julio Teheran has been inconsistent throughout his time with the team but has always been a go to pitcher for the team, with at least thirty starts for the Braves over his last seven years in Atlanta.
During the trade deadline the Braves made a huge push to build up their bullpen. Mark Melancon and Shane Greene were both acquired on July 31st and have become an integral part of their late game holds. Greene replaced the struggling Luke Jackson as the teams closer and has been shaky, blowing numerous save opportunities. The Braves will need these two to hold off opponents late in games if they want to make a deep run into the postseason.
Catching the eyes of everyone, the Braves future franchise player Ronald Acuna is on the chase of history this season. The twenty-one-year-old is just three home runs and six stolen bases away from joining the 40-40 club. The 2018 rookie of the year is looking to join Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rodriguez on this illustrious list. Many are now putting Acuna in contention for the NL MVP, as his stats are nearly matching or beating out the current leaders Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich.
Another player that has slowly brought his name into the MVP contention is Freddie Freeman. The long time Brave has slashed thirty-eight home runs and batted in 116. The Californian native has had the season of his career so far, setting personal bests in home runs, RBI’s, and runs. Many of his teammates and fans are all talking about how he is deserving of the MVP title himself, where he currently sits in the top 5 in the voting polls with Acuna. A late push and playoff push could lead these two Braves to have a legitimate shot at taking down Bellinger and Yelich in the ballot.
Although the team has had some recent issues with injuries, the front office of the Atlanta based team has been able to adjust and fill the holes when needed. The team had lost Nick Markakis, Austin Riley, Ender Inciarte, and Dansby Swanson within just a few weeks. To replace these huge losses, the Braves acquired Francisco Cervelli, Billy Hamilton and Rafael Ortega quickly to fill in these holes. However, call-ups Adam Duvall and A.J. Minter have helped the Braves plug the remaining holes in the lineup and help with appearances late in the game off the bench.
The recent 18-3 run have turned heads of many MLB fans. Many have written them off as a team that will simply lose in the NLDS. This has quickly changed, with many now considering this youthful team to be legitimate contenders for the title with their powerful offence.