The Atlanta Braves had 52 wins and 55 losses on August 1. On October 12, they beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 to win the National League Division Series, punching their ticket to the National League Championship Series. There, they’ll face either the LA Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants, as two of the best teams in baseball battle it out in the other Division Series.
The Braves’ unlikely comeback from a series of high-profile injuries is nothing short of miraculous. The team lost their ace pitcher, Mike Soroka, to a torn Achilles tendon in 2020. This season, superstar hitter Ronald Acuna Jr. tore his ACL while fielding a line drive. The team’s management made swift moves before the trading deadline, scooping up a big component of their current offense with former Chicago Cubs player Joc Pederson.
The Braves took the fight to the Brewers in Milwaukee to start the NLDS, where the full force of both teams’ unparalleled pitching went head-to-head. In game one, the Braves’ veteran pitcher Charlie Morton lined up against Brandon Woodruff. That game went the Brewers’ way, with Rowdy Telez smacking a two-run homer out of the park against Morton to make the difference.
The next three games in a row, however, saw the Braves return the favor. Game two was the Max Fried Show, with the Braves’ young ace showing off some pitching magic and holding the Brewers back from scoring a single run. It was much the same in game three, as Ian Anderson’s pitching excellence combined with a pinch-hit three-run homer from Joc Pederson to boost the Braves to 3-1 in the series.
The do-or-die game for the Brewers occurred at Truist Park in Atlanta, making things difficult for the Milwaukee-based ball club. The Braves’ ability to split the first two games in Milwaukee meant they had the home-field advantage for games three and four, and the Braves intended to make full use of the opportunity to close things out at home. The team pitched Charlie Morton again, this time on short rest, in an attempt to close things out in a decisive fashion.
Instead, the game became a shootout, with the precise pitching of the first three games giving way to a series of runs that woke the fans up. In the bottom of the 8th inning, with the game tied at 4-4, it was none other than the reigning National League MVP, Freddie Freeman, who showed up to line a towering home run off of the Brewer’s incredible closer, Josh Hader.
There is now only one left-handed hitter to hit two home runs off of Hader, and that’s Freeman. The crowd in Atlanta went absolutely berserk when Braves closer Will Smith delivered the final out of the game to Christian Yelich, which came via strikeout.
In 2020, the Braves came to within one game of the World Series, battling the Dodgers down to a 3-1 deficit early in the series. However, LA managed to rally back and eventually put the Braves away. Should the Dodgers beat the Giants in their Division Series, the National League could be in for a rematch.