It has been a crazy old season in Major League Baseball (MLB) which culminated in the Atlanta Braves beating the Houston Astros 4-2 in the World Series. But how did a team who had the second worst regular season record of any previous winner manage to get all the way to the World Series in the first place?
Well, it all starts with a flawed system in US sports really. For anyone who doesn’t follow MLB, it’s split into two leagues, the American League and the National League. Each league consists of 15 teams that are then split into three divisions, East, Central and West. To progress at the end of the season to the playoffs, you have to win your division, or be one of two teams who have the highest number of wins from the runners up in that league.
This means, that despite their poor form this season where they only managed 88 wins, with a win percentage of .563, because they were in a poor quality division, they got an automatic place in the playoffs. The only team to have ever done worse was the St. Louis Cardinals back in 2006, who claimed a World Series with just 83 regular season wins, and an embarrassing .516 win percentage.
With such a poor record, had they not won their division, the Braves would have failed to not just make the playoffs, but even to achieve a wild card slot. However, they did make it, despite no free MLB picks earlier in the season tipping them to do anything this season. And once a team makes the playoffs, regular season form goes out of the window. It all comes down to just out performing your opponent in the individual series on the way to the finals. So let’s recap how
Up first in the playoffs for the Atlanta Braves came tough opposition in the NL Central division champions, the Milwaukee Brewers. But it wouldn’t have been the start they wanted, as they lost in what was an incredibly close, and low scoring affair, that the Brewers would take the advantage from winning Game One of the series 2-1.
Their next three games in the series would go much better though, claiming two 3-0 victories over the Brewers, before a closely fought contest in Game Four. The Brewers needed to win to keep their hopes of a World Series alive, but sadly, it wasn’t to be for them. Instead, the Braves managed to hold off any attempts of a comeback from the Brewers, seeing out the game 5-4 to claim a series win.
League Championship Series
After dispatching of the Brewers to claim the Division Championship, it was then time for the Braves to battle it out for the National League title. This time, their opposition would be the early season favorites, and reigning World Series champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a Wild Card game to progress to the playoffs.
However, it won’t have been a series the Braves were looking forward to, with a 2-4 record against the Dodgers in the regular season. But they got off to a great start winning the first two games of the series 3-2 and 5-4 respectively. The Dodgers weren’t going to let them run away with the League Championship though, and they won game three to bring the series to 2-1 in favor of the Braves.
Despite that loss, the Braves didn’t let anything phase them, and they went on to restore their two game lead by dominating the Dodgers in a game they would win 9-2. The Dodgers tried their best to come back and claim back-to-back titles by bringing the series back to 3-2 in Game Five, but it wouldn’t be enough. As the Braves managed to see out Game Six with a 4-2 victory that would see them pass through to the World Series games where they would meet the Houston Astros.
MLB World Series
After claiming both the Division Championship and League Championship, the next target for the Braves was to secure the World Series. A confusing title for the championship since no other country takes part, so it’s more of a National title than a World title. But semantics aside, this was all set up to be a cracking series with two teams giving it their all.
The Braves got off to the best start they could’ve asked for in the World Series, with a 6-2 victory over the Astros, who beat the Boston Red Sox in the previous round to make it to the World Series. And they didn’t let defeat get them down, as they managed to pull the series back to 1-1 with an impressive 7-2 victory.
But as they had many times when being beaten during the playoffs, the Braves didn’t let their spirits drop, and responded with back-to-back victories to take them to a two game lead in the series. The Astros did manage to pull one more game back, but much like the Dodgers, it was all for nothing, as the Braves would see out the series with a 7-0 battering that would see them go on to claim their second ever World Series, with their first happening way back in 1995.
Well, it was an incredibly surprising victory for the Braves, with no one giving them a real chance at the start of the season. But every underdog has their day, and the team from Atlanta made the most of their opportunity. Considering it was a 26 year wait though, it could well be the same again, with fallen favorites from the campaign looking to strengthen over the summer. However, if they can do it once, there is no reason they couldn’t replicate it again, especially with the added confidence from going all the way this last season.