Atlanta Braves overcome 'ups and downs' to clinch fourth straight NL East title

ATLANTA -- Although the Atlanta Braves have done this many times before, this time it felt different.
For sure, it's more satisfying.

The Braves were unable to keep their.500 average for much of the season. They were subject to horrific injuries and serious legal problems. They had to rebuild their outfield by the deadline.

Yet, they were there Thursday night, sipping champagne, smoking cigars, and celebrating a NL East title.

Ian Anderson pitched another impressive game, Jorge Soler gave a dominant performance and Austin Riley scored to power the offense. The Braves won their fourth consecutive division title with a sweep over the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-3.

Manager Brian Snitker stated that they were trying to pull it off and just tried to keep going. "It's amazing what these guys achieved with everything that we went through."

The Braves did not climb above.500 until August 6, but they won their 21st division title, more than any other team since 1966 when they moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta.

When they open the best of five Division Series at the NL Central champion Brewers, Oct. 8, the team will face their hometown.

First baseman Freddie Freeman stated, "It's a wonderful feeling." "We had many ups and downs, so many things could have derail us."

In the division-clinching victory, Atlanta's first hitter was the one who got things moving. Soler scored his first leadoff homer in his career. He did it on a pitch from Kyle Gibson (4-6).

Riley added to his lead, adding to his unlikely MVP candidacy with his 33rd homer. To extend his lead to 5-0, he drove in another run in the fifth with a single-at-bat error.

Ozzie Albies, also part of the MVP race, supported Riley.

Albies stated, "He's been carrying that team." He did a fantastic, great job. He had a great season."

Anderson (9-5) received more than enough support. He appears to be returning to the form he displayed in the 2020 postseason, when he was a rookie.

Anderson pitched six innings with one-hit balls before Andrew McCutchen scored two runs in the seventh. A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, and Will Smith pitched the final three innings. Smith managed to get through the ninth to earn his 37th save.

The finish was not bad considering all the obstacles Atlanta faced.

Ronald Acuna Jr., the star outfielder, was forced to retire from the game with a knee injury that ended his season. Former ace Mike Soroka did not make the expected return after injuring his Achilles tendon a second time.

Marcell Ozuna, the Braves' pot-stirring outfielder and slugging outfielder, was also taken into custody after an altercation in May with his wife. He didn't return home to join the team.

Alex Anthopoulos, general manager, pulled off a series of impressive moves before the deadline and assembled a completely new outfield, which included Soler, Adam Duvall, and Eddie Rosario.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Braves went 126 days without a win record. This is the longest streak of consecutive losing records by a division champion since 1989 Toronto Blue Jays. It also marks the fourth-longest span since 1969 when the divisional era began.

The Braves got hot enough to take over in one of the minors' weakest divisions. The Braves took sole possession of the NL East lead Aug. 15, while on a perfect 9-0 road trip, and they never lost it.

Philadelphia surged late to get within 1 1/2 games of leading last weekend.

Atlanta ended the Phillies' chances with their stifling start by Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Anderson. They combined to allow only 10 hits and three earned runs in 20 innings of the series.

Joe Girardi, Phillies manager, said that it was a very empty feeling. It stinks. It hurts.

After Smith had struck out Ronald Torreyes, it was time to celebrate with a crowd of 38,235.

Meanwhile, the Phillies have gone a decade without making a postseason appearance. Since 2011, when they won the fifth straight NL East title, the Phillies have not been back.

Girardi stated, "We have to improve," "That's the bottom line. This must be broken.