Well, it took a few more days than expected, and it’s been 8 years since the Atlanta Braves last clinched a division title, but the Braves have now clinched the 2013 NL East Division title. Granted, it became official with a Nationals loss to the Marlins today, but the Braves are up on the Chicago Cubs 5-1 in the 8th as I write this piece.
It’s always more motivational when you can clinch at home, and when you can clinch taking care of your own business, but when you’ve been a Braves fan for as long as I have, and you haven’t seen a division title since 2005, beggars won’t be choosers.
Frankly, it’s great to see the Braves get the division title again. From 1991 to 2005, the Atlanta Braves won 14 straight division titles, a record that still stands as the best run in Major League Baseball.
The last time the Braves won a division title in 2005, that year marked the first time that any major league team went on to the playoffs with more than four rookies who had 100+ at-bats. A trip down memory lane for some of us older fans who remember first hand – it was Brian McCann (the only member of that team a rookie then, who is still a current Brave – Tim Hudson was on the team then too, but not a rookie), Wilson Betemit, Pete Orr, Ryan Langerhans, and Jeff Francoeur. It was that many rookies on a division winning team that led to the 2005 Braves being called the Baby Braves. The Braves lost in the Division series that year to the Houston Astros, but we’re hoping that 2013 will be a touch different.
I’m feeling a bit nostalgic at the moment, but I’ll refrain from boring you with too much of a stroll down memory lane. I suppose for younger Braves fans, and even for old farts like me, what’s really important for the Braves now is keeping the momentum, playing hard, not relaxing, and winning as many games as you can in the seven games left in the regular season.
With a road record below .500, it will be important for Atlanta to maintain the best record in the National League if they hope to maintain home-field advantage. The Braves have a .591 winning percentage and a 91-63 record (pre-game 3 of the Chicago Series), but the St. Louis Cardinal, currently, are on their heels with a .587 winning percentage and a record of 91-64.
With just seven games left, the Braves will face the visiting Milwaukee Brewers for a three game set, and then close out the regular season with a four game series against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. The great news is that if Atlanta’s road record hasn’t been anything to brag about, at home they’ve been 55-22! That’s really the best home record in all of baseball.
In the end, every year for any team is all about taking care of your own business, playing with a sense of urgency, and just doing the best you can to deal with fatigue, injuries, setbacks, slumps, and a plethora of other hurdles. The Braves have done a superb job so far in dealing with all of that and more, and despite not being given great odds to go to a World Series by most pundits, the Braves have as good or better chance than any other NL team.
The way the Braves have played lately, I’ll admit I’m still skeptical, but no one hopes for it more than I. I count myself exceedingly fortunate to have been present at the games for most of those division titles, and I was at the series in 95 when we won our last world championship. I’d love to experience all that again!