Most of the season, it just seemed this was not to be the Atlanta Braves’ year as they dropped their first four games and injuries piled up, but out of nowhere they transformed themselves and took off, culminating in their triumph in the World Series on Tuesday.
They lost their most dynamic player before the All-Star break. They were stuck below .500 in August.
However, Jorge Soler, Freddie Freeman and the Braves breezed to their first World Series championship since 1995, hammering the Houston Astros 7-0 in Game 6.
Max Fried threw six dominant innings in a signature pitching performance to close it out.
“We hit every pothole, every bump you could possibly hit this year,” Freeman said. “Injuries, every single kind of thing that could happen, that could go wrong went wrong, and we overcame every single one of those things.”
How proud former Braves player and official Hank Aaron would have been.
Even so, Atlanta’s troubles never fully went away.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos, the architect of the Braves’ turnaround in the middle of the season, missed this crowning achievement after testing positive for COVID-19.
He was at home for the clincher.
Soler, a July acquisition who tested positive for the coronavirus in the playoffs, backed Fried early with a monster three-run shot for his third homer against the Astros.
Freeman hit an RBI double and then punctuated the romp with a solo home run in the seventh inning that made it 7-0.
By then, it was a team effort.
Ailing star Ronald Acuna Jr, the dynamo of Atlanta’s future, bounded from the dugout to join the celebration for Freeman, the longtime face of the franchise.
When Yuli Gurriel grounded out to end it, Freeman caught the throw at first base, put the ball in his pocket, and the party was on for manager Brian Snitker’s club.
A full hour after the game, hundreds of Braves fans packed behind the team’s third-base dugout kept doing the chop and chant, causing loud echoes to bounce around the ballpark.
At suburban Truist Park, thousands of fans poured into the Braves’ home to holler.
A mere afterthought in the summer heat among the land of the Giants, White Sox and Dodgers, but magnificent in the Fall Classic.
“This is the toughest team I’ve ever been a part of,” said shortstop Dansby Swanson, who also homered.
Soler tapped his heart twice before beginning his home run trot after connecting off rookie Luis Garcia in the third inning, sending the ball flying completely out of Minute Maid Park and clinching the Series MVP award.
By the end, nothing could stop them. Not a broken leg sustained by starter Charlie Morton in the World Series opener. Not a big blown lead in Game 5.
Steadied by the 66-year-old Snitker, an organization man for four decades, the underdog Braves won the franchise’s fourth title.
“They never gave up on themselves,” he said on a post-game victory platform. “We lost a lot of pieces over the course of the summer and it was just the next man up.”
Consider it a tribute to the greatest Braves player of them all.
Aaron died on Jan. 22 aged 86, still pulling for his old team, and The Hammer’s legacy was stamped all over this series.
“Nobody ever wanted to let Hank down,” Snitker said. “That’s just the way it was, we didn’t want to let him down. He charged us with a responsibility to make these guys better and we weren’t going to let him down.”
The Braves out-homered the top-scoring team in the majors 11-2.
For 72-year-old Houston manager Dusty Baker, a disappointment, but for many fans rooting against the Astros in the wake of their 2017 sign-stealing scandal, some satisfaction.
“Yeah, it’s tough, but you know something? You’ve got to keep on trucking, and that gives you even more incentive next year,” Baker said. “It’s tough to take now, but this too shall pass. I mean, it really hurts, but it’s over.”
A British skier crashes through wooden fencing on a downhill corner and slams into a pole, breaking his leg. An American hits an icy patch at the bottom of a hill and crashes into a fence, breaking one ski and twisting the other, also breaking his leg. Another American, training before a biathlon race, slides out on an icy corner and flies off the trail into a tree, breaking ribs and a shoulder blade, and punctures a lung. These were not scenes from high-speed Alpine or ski cross events. They happened on cross-country ski and biathlon tracks made with artificial snow.
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