Surprising Atlanta Braves clinch National League East crown for first time since 2013
The Braves will reach October a year earlier than expected
Mike Foltynewicz held the Phillies hitless through six innings, bending only when Odubel Herrera led off the seventh with a single. Meanwhile, the Braves chased Jake Arrieta after two innings by scoring two runs apiece in the first and second frames to establish a 4-0 lead. The Phillies would threaten in the eighth before falling short.
Although the Braves entered spring with a well-regarded farm system, it's fair to write they were not expected to be this good this quickly.
The Braves received hardware-worthy production from Freddie Freeman, the organization's bellcow, as well as phenom Ronald Acuna Jr., who could well win this year's NL Rookie of the Year Award. Ozzie Albies homered 23 times thanks to a quick start, and Nick Markakis and others pitched in as well. On the mound, the aforementioned Foltynewicz earned a trip to the All-Star Game with his improved performance, and the Braves made smart acquisitions at the deadline, gaining Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach, and Jonny Venters without giving up much.
Add it all together and the Braves rank second in the NL in runs scored, second in OPS, and sixth in ERA. They also have the fifth-best defense in baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus's park-adjusted defensive efficiency metric. That makes for a good team.
This year's division crown is the 18th since the franchise moved to Atlanta -- 14 of those coming consecutively, from 1991 through 2005.
The Braves are likely to play the winner of the NL West -- probably the Los Angeles Dodgers -- in the first round of the postseason. You can check out the generic playoff schedule here as more teams attempt to punch their tickets to the tournament during the coming week.
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