It feels like déjà vu for the Atlanta Braves, in a good way. A year after winning the World Series for the first time since 1995 despite starting the year not just slowly, but sluggishly, the Braves seem to be playing their best baseball as September starts. And this year, they aren’t actually battling crippling injury after crippling injury, so there’s that.
For the first few months of the season, MLB seemed like a slog to another inevitable Yankees World Series title. Then the Yankees came back to Earth and the Dodgers started looking like the team to beat – again. The Mets were surging too, and it seemed like the reigning champions wouldn’t even win their own division.
To get some perspective on how unlikely the Braves' run is, consider this. On April 10th, the reigning champions were already 7 games back in the division. On June 1st, they trailed by 10 ½ games. Now they’re tied for first, looking as strong as they have looked all season, and fans are feeling very confident they can take on anyone, including the Dodgers, who the Braves beat in the NLCS on their way to the title last year. If there’s ever a good time to find your best baseball, it’s October, and the Braves have been here before.
Last year the Braves lost their first four games of the season, then won the next four. Then they lost another four. They went on to be mediocre in the first three months and went into the All-Star break with a 44-45 record, and not one day spent over .500.
Then they went 18-8 in August and 18-11 in September to clinch the NL East. Still, they came into the playoffs with the worst record of all playoff teams and beat both the NL favorites Dodgers and then the Astros to win their first title in over two decades. And they did all of that without Ronald Acuña Jr, who was injured in July.
Of course, none of this means the Braves are going to repeat in 2022. One of the hardest feats in organized sport is to win back-to-back championships and the Braves still have to overcome their division rivals, the New York Mets, not to mention the LA Dodgers and maybe even the aforementioned NY Yankees if they want the title. But though two months ago it might have been easy to dismiss the possibility of the Braves making the playoffs, much less repeating, now the MLB baseball plays are starting to take shape and it looks like the Atlanta Braves will be in the thick of it, once again.
And the scary thing is …this time they didn’t have to scramble to build a team to get here, which means even if this isn’t their year, their future is very bright indeed.