For only the second time since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966, the Braves are World Series champions. The Braves walloped the Houston Astros in Game 6 on Tuesday, clinching their first title since 1995. Trade deadline addition Jorge Soler was named World Series MVP after hitting three homers in the six games, .
To call the Braves improbable World Series champions would be unfair -- this team did win the NL East each of the last three seasons, after all -- though they certainly had to overcome some adversity and long odds to win the title. Most notably, they made their postseason run without their best player..
"I'd probably have to say it's one of the hardest moments of my career, to be honest. Just to be here at the stadium and not be able to join my teammates out there in the field and play with them," Acuña said during the NLCS. "But there's nothing you can do about that. So for me, it's just about being here and continuing to give them the support as if I were playing."
The Braves won the day Acuña was injured, improving their record to 44-44. Their postseason odds that day: 8.7 percent. A loss the next day sent Atlanta in the All-Star break at 44-45 with their postseason odds bottoming out at 7.3 percent. The 2021 Braves join the 1964 Cardinals as the only teams ever to win the World Series after being under .500 at the All-Star break.
The Braves did not climb over .500 for good until Aug. 8, when they were 57-56. Seven days later they moved into sole possession of first place in the NL East for the first time all year. Atlanta spent only 51 days in first place this season, far and away the fewest among the six division winners (the Brewers spent the next fewest at 98 days in first place).
In the wake of the Acuña injury, GM Alex Anthopoulos remade his outfield at the trade deadline, bringing in four veterans (Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Soler) who paid big dividends at different times. Duvall finished fourth in baseball with 113 RBI, Pederson hit a game-winning homer in the NLDS, Rosario was the NLCS MVP, and Soler was the World Series MVP.
"We just felt like we had a pretty good handle on our club and what the NL East was doing at the time," Anthopoulos said following the trade deadline. "Even if things hadn't gone all that well, we still felt like we had a club that had a chance to win the division."
Anthopoulos could not replace Mike Soroka the way he replaced Acuña. Soroka, the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, blew out his Achilles three starts into last season, then blew it out again this June. The only pitcher the Braves imported at the deadline was reliever Richard Rodríguez, who was so shaky down the stretch that he was left off the postseason roster.
The Braves winning the World Series with zero starts from Soroka and no Acuña after July 10 would have seemed impossible a few weeks ago. But no Charlie Morton either? , forcing the Braves to use a bullpen game in Games 4 and 5. So their best position player and arguably their two best starters were not active in the clincher.
Overcoming the Acuña, Morton, and Soroka injuries was difficult enough. The Braves also had to go through Milwaukee's dominant rotation (Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta) and the 106-win Dodgers to get to the World Series, where they then had to face an experienced Astros team with a big chip on its shoulder following the sign-stealing scandal. It was a tough road.
Predicting the Braves would win the World Series would not have been crazy in spring training. But they played .500 ball for close to four months, then Soroka suffered his setback, then Acuña got hurt. Atlanta looked dead in the water at the All-Star break. Instead, they're now World Series champs thanks to an all-time great trade deadline and remarkable resilience. This isn't an underdog story. It's just a great baseball story.
"There's no doubt we've had our challenges -- that's probably a nice way to say it -- but at the same time, every club has," Anthopoulos said at the deadline. "... I think you have to worry about being able to get in (the postseason) first. We've seen Wild Card teams get to the World Series. You just don't know once you get in."
Atlanta Braves World Series championship gear released
The Braves have won their first World Series since 1995. You can now buy Atlanta Braves World Series shirts, hats, jerseys, hoodies, and more to celebrate the historic win. Get gear here now.
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