Braves embrace final NL East title, set for another playoff run

With Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over the Marlins at LoanDepot Park, the Braves captured their fifth consecutive National League East Division title. Atlanta has the longest active streak of division crowns in the sport. The Braves celebrated their last achievement, but they expect to win.

The Braves’ 22 division titles are the most in Major League Baseball history, leading the 20 won by the Yankees and Dodgers. They are all impressive but, by winning the 2022 NL East crown, the Braves have made history.

This season, the Braves overcame their biggest deficit to win a division title in franchise history. They trailed the Mets by 10½ games after playing June 1, then rode an incredible run to win the NL East – again. The 1993 Braves were 10 games behind first-place San Francisco before winning the division.

Since June 1, the Braves are 77-33. (We’ll give you a second to read it over and digest it). The Mets didn’t give the division – the Braves took it. And because of the way they won it, Braves players seemed to think this division title was more special than the others, even though they all cherished them.

“We have accomplished so much over the past five years,” said AJ Minter. “I know we expect to be here, but this is probably the most impressive season I’ll probably be in, and it’s been the most impressive in a long time. … I know we expect to be here, but this what we accomplished this year was absolutely amazing.

“I think the most amazing part is how well we’ve played, and if you extrapolate that to 162, since June 1, that’s like historic, you know what I mean?” said Dansby Swanson. “It’s amazing how well we played.”

Here’s something else that adds context to this season’s madness: According to Elias Athletic Bureau’s research, the Braves are only the sixth team in history to finish first in their division or league. after leading for less than 10 days of the season. . The Braves’ record for fewest days first for a division winner was 22 days, achieved by the 1883 club. The modern-era record is 27 days by the 1991 Braves.

This year marked the last time the Braves won the division – by game (Tuesday was their 161st game of the season – since winning the crown in Game 161 in 1991.

“The ebb and flow that we’ve been through this year, it was kind of crazy,” Austin Riley said. “It seems like every night we had to grind a little more. It’s definitely sweet. It just shows what this team is doing. They don’t give up.

At one point this season, Snitker told his team, “It’s not about catching the Mets, it’s about playing our style of baseball. You can’t watch the Mets, we have to worry about ourselves. It’s the only thing we can control is what happens.

His group responded. In June, the Braves won 14 straight games. In August and September, the Braves chained two eight-game winning streaks in about a month.

This season, there have been ups and downs, twists and turns. It culminated with Tuesday’s celebration. These Braves won the World Series last season and positioned themselves to defend their championship.

“They’re all special, they’re all tough,” Snitker said. “It’s right up there. There’s a team that wanted to get away with it this year. To keep plugging in and the consistency these guys have shown all year, coming to work every day and worrying about today. They weren’t caught in the fact that we were behind.

“I’m proud of the squad we have,” Anthopoulos said. “Obviously put the talent aside – just the people, the way they mix. I was even talking with some of the support staff. They felt like – talent aside – from a chemistry perspective, they’re probably the strongest (team) we’ve had in five years. … It’s shocking, because I didn’t think he could be stronger.

The Braves partied in their clubhouse after their win over the Marlins sealed their place at the top of the NL East standings, but there was one talking point: They expect to be here. They appreciate it and are grateful for it, but it’s the first step in what they hope will be a long journey to the playoffs.

By winning the division, the Braves avoided the wild card round. That means they have five more days off before starting the NLDS playoffs next Tuesday at Truist Park.

“It’s just joy,” Swanson said of the clubhouse atmosphere during the pandemonium. “But I think everyone also knows that it’s just a step in the direction. In the past, I felt like we lost that perspective, and I feel like the last year taught us one thing: you have to keep moving forward, you have to keep moving forward, because that’s not the end goal.”

Of repeating as World Series champions, Riley said, “That’s the end goal. In the end, this is just the (checkbox) to get there.”

The Braves also won an MLB record 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005. Their current run began when they hired Anthopoulos. Since then, the Braves have ascended to the elite level of baseball.

The Braves are one of the best organizations in baseball due to their sustained success. Atlanta is a desirable place to gamble. Take Kirby Yates, for example. He attempted to sign with the Braves in 2021, but fell short on his physicality. He eventually joined them before this season. This season marks the first time he has pitched for a division-winning club.

“I don’t know what I expected!” Yates joked during the celebration. He then added this: “There’s a reason I targeted this place and wanted to come here, and that’s reason number one: you have the opportunity to play in the playoffs every year.”

The Braves are no longer one of baseball’s darlings. They arrived. No one takes them lightly. They are considered one of the juggernauts in the sport due to the talent on their roster. They are more equipped than ever for post-season racing. They know how difficult it will be, but they are ready.

But they have all the rest of the week to refocus and prepare for October.

On Tuesday, they briefly stopped to celebrate their latest achievement. They are well aware of the hard work that leads to a night like this.

The Braves have a peculiar string of successes, which they will remember long after they finish in this game.

“It’s tough to win one,” Snitker said, “and to win it five (times) in a row is pretty special.”

“You can’t take them for granted,” Riley said. “You must cherish each of them.”

“It’s indescribable, really,” said Jake Odorizzi. “It’s not guaranteed to be.”

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