Reigning champs bring another historic season to Atlanta

The Braves season has been one full of highs and lows, from losing four of five games against the Mets to going on a 14-game winning streak. Even with the struggles by star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves offense has been elite, powered by MVP candidate Austin Riley, offseason addition Matt Olson, and rookie sensations Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom, as well as contributions from breakout players Dansby Swanson and William Contreras. The Star-studded Rotation has been anchored by the ace of the staff, Max Fried, with former top prospect Kyle Wright finally turning into the star he was always projected to be. Flamethrower Spencer Strider has been lights out all year as a rookie, and veteran Charlie Morton is reliable as always. Even Jake Odorizzi as the five has shown flashes recently after coming over from the Astros at the trade deadline. MLB’s number one bullpen has performed as well as you would expect MLB’s best to. The only struggles this year have mostly been due to Brian Snitker’s mismanagement, from not using our best relievers when down by one to using Dylan Lee, a lefty, to face four straight righties. Still, the most frustrating move is not replacing struggling closer Kenley Jansen with Rasiel Iglesias.

The Baby Braves have been a trio of Braves rookies that have joined the team this year and made a huge impact. The group made up of Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider, and Vaughn Grissom got their name from a similar group of rookies from 2005. Spencer Strider started the year off in the bullpen as a long reliever. Still, after Bryce Elder, Tucker Davidson, and Huascar Ynoa struggled as the fifth starter, Strider finally got a shot and has completely blown fans away, making 17 starts with a 2.73 ERA and breaking John Smoltz’s record for most strikeouts in a game with 16. Still, the move to call up Michael Harris II, a 21-year-old from Double-A, and have him skip Triple-A was unprecedented and risky. The move paid off as the Braves went on a 14-game winning streak, and Harris is still producing to a slash line of .309/.352/.538, playing gold glove worthy defense in center and going 15 for his first 15 in steals. Last but not least of the Baby Braves, Vaughn Grissom was the last to be called up, and like Harris, he was called up from Double-A. In his MLB debut, he became the youngest player to hit a home run and steal a base in his first game. He kept up his impressive hot streak by becoming the first Braves player to score a run in each of their first six games. He is still playing well and exploring a move to left field when Ozzie Albies returns.

The NL East battle this year has been one of give and take versus the Mets. The Braves started the season off slow, and on May 31, the Braves were 10.5 games behind the East-leading Mets. Snitker noticed his team in dire need of a change and called a meeting, which was followed up by the Braves 14-game winning streak, which ended with the Braves at only 5.5 games behind. Going into a mid-July series versus the Mets, the Braves were back only 1.5 games but lost the series, falling behind even more. In early August, the Braves lost four of five games against the Mets, putting them seven games back on Aug. 10. The Braves began to surge once again in early August, taking two of three from the Mets and finally tying the division momentarily on Sept. 6.

This MLB season has been one of surprise, from the breakout of Dylan Cease to the emergence of Julio Rodriguez; this year has everything a baseball fan could have ever wanted. In the National League, the Dodgers will win the West, and the Cardinals should win the Central, leaving the East as MLB’s most competitive division, with the Mets and Braves fighting for the first-place position. The NL MVP frontrunner is Saint Louis first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, with Austin Riley and Nolan Arenado trailing by a good margin. The NL rookie of the year is between two Braves this year, Strider and Harris. Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara is running away with the NL Cy Young award, leading NL pitchers in almost all significant stats. In the American League, the Astros are leading the west. In the Central, the Twins, Guardians, and White Sox are fighting for the title, with the Guardians in the lead. Additionally, the Yankees are first in the AL East, powered by AL MVP frontrunner Aaron Judge. The AL Cy is between Rays’ ace Shane McClanahan, Astros’ veteran Justin Verlander, and White Sox’s breakout star Dylan Cease. Julio Rodriguez will win AL rookie of the year, as he has had one of the best rookie years in recent history.

The Braves have had a great season so far trying to defend their title, fueled by a great mix of young guys and proven veterans that are currently on pace for the best record in over a decade. As a Braves fan, there is very little to be disappointed in, and even if the Mets win the division, the Braves are prepared to beat them in the playoffs. Regardless of the outcomes of the rest of the year, the Braves have shown once again that they’re a gutsy team that is ready to keep the trophy in Atlanta.

Edited by Helen Slawson