They did it again! The Braves stand alone atop the NL East!

They did it again! The Braves stand alone atop the NL East!
The Atlanta Braves celebrate clinching their third consecutive National League East championship after with a victory over the Miami Marlins in a baseball game on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

By KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Well folks, they did it again. For the third consecutive year, the Braves stand alone atop the NL East mountain. We’ve seen some incredible performances over the last few years, but I’d argue that this might be Brian Snitker’s finest job to date. Consider the COVID outbreaks at the start of Summer Camp, seeing Markakis, King Felix and Eric Young Sr opt outs, injuries and inconsistencies to the rotation and being without your All-Star second baseman for over half the season, what this team has accomplished is nothing short of remarkable.

Yes, the Braves were considered contenders heading into Spring Training seven and a half months ago. So, this isn’t exactly a surprise that we’re talking about the Braves heading back to October for the third straight season. However, when you look at the rotation and realize that Max Fried is the last man standing from when the season started in late July, this team has had to overcome so much adversity and passed all those tests with flying colors! Offensively, the biggest question mark was “how will they replace Josh Donaldson?” Well, with five games left in the season, Marcell Ozuna now leads the National League in homers with 17 and RBI as he’s now driven in 53 runs on the season.

We knew the bullpen was going to be a strength. I had a feeling it might be the teams best asset coming into 2020. But they’ve far and away exceeded any expectations I had for them this year. Following last night’s win, the Braves are a perfect 26-0 when handing the relievers a lead after six innings. You read that correctly…26 and 0. Consider where this team was a year ago as they got set for the playoffs to where they are now. The offense was sputtering, Freddie Freeman’s elbow was a mess and the runners in scoring position numbers were downright ugly. Meanwhile, in 2020, the Braves have hit 98 homers in 55 games, have a pair of legitimate MVP candidates in Ozuna and Freeman and appear to be peaking at the perfect time. Now, the only question remaining is, will the starting rotation hold up their end of the bargain? We know there won’t be a whole lot of Major League experience when the club looks to Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright to try and win some of the most important games in the last two decades, but no matter who is on the mound, these guys should have the confidence knowing the way this prolific offense can cover up shortcomings on the mound.

Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet