“Smith, the 0-2. Left side … Swanson … to first … the Braves are World Champions!” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman raised his arms in elation, tucked the final out baseball into his back pocket, and ran to the mound to join his teammates’ victory celebration. On Nov. 3, in game six of the World Series, the Atlanta Braves defeated the Houston Astros 7-0 in a victory that capped off an improbable-yet-incredible Braves’ run to become World Series champions.
Making the postseason was never a guarantee for this Braves team. On July 11, 2021, the Atlanta Braves were 44-44, out of playoff position, and reports confirmed that their star player Ronald Acuna Jr. had just suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee. At that point into the season, Acuna Jr. led the Braves in batting average, home runs, and stolen bases, and he led all players in the MLB with 72 runs scored. The season was more than halfway over and the Braves were now without their star player, but they decided it was not over just yet. The front office made a decision to bolster the lineup with the acquisitions of Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, and Jorge Soler, and never looked back. Despite having a losing record at the all-star break (44-45), the Braves held off the Philadelphia Phillies down the stretch of the regular season and captured their fourth consecutive NL East title, earning them a spot in the postseason.
Despite winning their division, the Braves entered the postseason as the team with the lowest winning percentage (54.7 percent, with an 88-73 regular season record) in the entire playoff bracket. Furthermore, the Braves had sixteen consecutive postseason appearances without a title — the longest streak of all time. This time, though, the Braves had an incredible run, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Divisional Series (NLDS), the defending champions Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), and, finally, the Houston Astros in the World Series. In the end, the Braves became the first team in 57 years to win the World Series after having a losing record at the all-star break (44-45).
“We hit every pothole, every bump you could possibly hit this year, and somehow the car still made it onto the other side,” Freeman said, in a postgame set with Fox News. “[This is] just an incredible group.”
The Braves’ postseason success was a serious team effort. Left fielder Eddie Rosario, one of the Braves’ key free-agent acquisitions, hit 0.560 (14 for 25) with three home runs and nine RBIs (Runs Batted In) in the Braves’ 4-2 series win against the Dodgers in the NLCS. His fourteen hits tied an MLB record for the most hits in a single playoff series. In the World Series, even more players stepped up. Charlie Morton, the Braves starting pitcher for Game 1, broke his right fibula in the second inning, yet somehow managed to throw sixteen more pitches and record three more outs before being taken out. Jorge Soler, another trade-deadline acquisition, became the sixth player ever to have three go-ahead homers in a single World Series. Soler was the World Series MVP, recording a batting average of .300 with three home runs, six RBIs, and three walks. First baseman Freddie Freeman, a five-time All-Star and 2020 National League MVP, powered the offense and hit .318 with two home runs and five RBIs.
For Freeman, this World Series win was a long time coming and undoubtedly one of the greatest moments in an illustrious career. Freeman, one of the Braves franchise cornerstones, was drafted into the organization when he was just seventeen. He was called up to the MLB roster three years later and made his debut for the Braves in 2010, at just twenty years of age. Despite becoming one of baseball’s best first basemen throughout the years, Freeman’s production was hampered by a Braves team that lost more than 90 games in each season from 2014-2017. From 2018-2020, the Braves rattled off three consecutive division titles but could never make it to the Fall Classic. Yet in 2021, the final year of Freeman’s 8-year contract extension that he signed back in 2014, Freeman was rewarded with baseball’s biggest prize: a World Series title. For Braves manager Brian Snitker, this win arguably meant even more: it was the culmination of years, even decades, of consistency, determination, and loyalty. Snitker has spent the past 45 years in the Braves’ organization, working just about every position at the Major and Minor League levels. Snitker managed the Anderson Braves in 1982 (his first of 20 seasons as a Minor League manager), was the Braves’ bullpen coach in both 1985 and 1988–1990, and was also the Braves’ third-base coach from 2007-2013. Though he didn’t become the Atlanta Braves’ major league manager until his 40th year with the organization, in his four seasons at the helm, Snitker has guided the Braves to four straight NL East titles and their first World Series title since 1995.
Closer Will Smith, who recorded the final out of the Fall Classic, was full of praise for his manager: “[Snitker] rides with his guys. He never loses faith in us. Even sometimes when we struggle throughout the year, he probably believes in us the most. He’ll never back down. He’ll always fight for us. He’s the shit.”
Led by manager Brian Snitker, the Atlanta Braves, who were riddled by injuries and misfortunes throughout the season, captured their fourth World Series title and first since 1995. Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves, 2021 World Series Champions!