The Atlanta Braves postseason runs continues this week in a place the franchise hasn't been in more than 20 years – the World Series.
That's right, the team with the least amount of wins entering the playoffs just dethroned the defending World Champions Los Angeles Dodgers.
The team that lost its best player and transcendent talent in Ronald Acuna Jr. midway through the season to a torn ACL had one of his replacements, Eddie Rosario, a player the Braves traded for who was injured at the time, reel off a six-game stretch in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) for the ages. He was appropriately rewarded with the NLCS Most Valuable Player Award.
While the Braves' playoff run is amazing on paper, how much of an underdog are these Braves? All of the analysts who view this Braves team over the scope of the whole season are making a mistake. The Braves over the course of the final three months of August, September and October are not the same team as the one that floundered below .500 for the first four months of the season.
The Braves swung for the fences with their trade deadline moves and have hit home runs with every pick. Rosario is the hottest hitter on the planet. Joc Pederson provided a much-needed spark against the Milwaukee Brewers in the N.L. Division Series. Jorge Soler missed most of the NLCS in COVID protocols, but his return should provide depth for the Braves in the World Series. Adam Duvall is another home run threat in the lineup.
To view the Braves as strictly just an 88-win team in a weak N.L. East Division is a mistake, because this is not the same team that started the season. This team played the second half of the season on par with the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, the two teams with the most wins this year.
The Braves' series victory over the Dodgers was no fluke. At the plate and on the mound, the Braves were just better than the Dodgers.
What can Braves fans expect during this week's World Series against the Houston Astros? Is it a team of destiny? Maybe. Is it a team getting hot at the right time? Absolutely. Sometimes that's all that is required to win in the playoffs. Be the hottest team at the right time.
The Braves are playing with confidence. Manager Brian Snitker is pushing the right playoff buttons. General Manager Alex Anthopolous' trade deadline moves are paying dividends. A much-maligned bullpen during the regular season is lights out this postseason.
The Astros may prevail this week, because they are talented up and down the roster, even absent the infamous trash cans. But this Braves team has already made history with its postseason run. Can they win four more? I'm not betting against them.
Clint Thompson is a special contributor to the Valdosta Daily Times.