The Atlanta Braves entered the game against Miami tonight with the opportunity to win their third straight NL East Title after the Phillies lose game one of their doubleheader against the Washington Nationals.
The Braves put the game in the hands of one of their top prospects, Bryce Wilson, and trusted their offense to close out the division. And that they did.
Wilson was masterful last night as the young Braves hurler threw for five strong innings allowing three hits, one walk, and fanning seven Marlins’ hitters. This was Wilson’s fifth appearance this season for the big-league club and he finally showed the flashes the Braves thought he could.
Does this mean Wilson is ready for a starter’s role? I would say pump the brakes for now. As is the case with Kyle Wright, another young Braves pitcher. Both need more innings for coaching and fans to see what they have. The issue is can both players perform at a similar level once the playoffs eventually start.
With the playoffs starting soon, the Braves still have a major question mark as to what the starting rotation will look like in the playoffs. Fortunately for the Braves, there is one part of the team that explodes off the page.
Coming into last night, the Braves arguably had the best offense in the majors. Let’s break this down shall we. Here are some of the Braves’ offensive stats:
- #1 in runs
- #1 in hits
- #1 in doubles
- #2 in home runs
- #1 in RBIs
- #2 in batting average
- #2 in OBP
- #1 in Slugging
- #1 in OPS
These are very elite numbers for any offense. This all comes with Nick Markakis joining the team late, and top batters Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies going down to injury. But the impressive numbers don’t just stop there.
- Freeman and Swanson are the top 2 batters in runs scored
- Ozuna (fourth) and Freeman (third) are at the top of hits
- Freeman leads the league in doubles
- Ozuna (tied for third), Duval (tied for fifth) come near the top of home runs – **Note: when the night ended, Marcel Ozuna hit two home runs which has placed him at second and leads the NL in home runs
- Freeman (second) and Ozuna (third) come near the best in the MLB in RBIs
- Freeman ranks third in batting average
- Freeman ranks second in OBP
- Freeman (third) and Ozuna (fourth) come near the top in Slugging
- Freeman (second), Ozuna (third), and Acuna (fifth) round out the top five in OPS
Not to mention, Freddie Freeman’s MVP campaign. Though many could be deserving, Freeman has been the best player in the NL this season.
Work to Be Done
All this said, just because the Braves clinched their division and playoff spot last night this doesn’t mean they can coast the rest of the way. This team, even with all the starting pitching woes, still expects to compete for a World Series in this truncated season.
The team still has five games left to go in the regular season. While the Braves can’t catch the number one seeded Los Angeles Dodgers (39-16), the Braves find themselves in a stiff competition for a top four seed. For seeding purposes, the Braves would like to stay away from the Dodgers until a potential NLCS matchup. Currently the Braves (33-22) are sitting in the third seed one game ahead of the Chicago Cubs (32-23) and one game back of the San Diego Padres (34-21). If they Braves want to miss the Dodgers until the NLCS, they will need to stay put in the 2 or 3 seed to ensure that.
This team is expected, and rightfully so, to compete for a World Series this season. Contrary to what Rob Manfred – MLB Commissioner – may think about the trophy, for the city of Atlanta it would mean the world. At the very least the Braves have to win a playoff series, as they haven’t done so since 2001.
However, this amazing ride ends for Atlanta, so far the fans and league have gotten a front row seat to a very fun team. In the coming days, Braves players, coaches, staff, and fans will know which team awaits them in the Postseason.