Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Braves happy to leave the drama behind

Last season the Braves took their season as far as it could go, hoping to avoid a collapse. They played beyond the standard 9 in game 162 thanks to Craig Kimbrel's blown save. Hunter Pence of the Philadelphia Phillies finished off their September collapse with a game-winning single in the top of the 13th. The Atlanta Braves had done it, they had blown an 8-1/2 game lead for the wild card with one of the biggest collapses in baseball history. If it wasn't for the Boston Red Sox matching that incompetence with a collapse of their own, it would have been a bigger national headline.

We know what happened next, the St. Louis Cardinals claimed the only N.L. Wild Card spot and rode a wave of momentum all the way to a World Series Championship. There was no joy in Atlanta, only questions of what went wrong and who would suffer. Blame gravitated toward manager Fredi Gonzalez and his overuse of the bullpen, specifically Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, and Eric O'Flaherty. Ultimately no one was fired and manager and team made silent promises that this year would be different, this year wouldn't come down to 162.

Last night, game 154, they kept that promise. Freddie Freeman, their rising star of a first baseman, launched a two-run walk-off homerun to clinch their postseason ticket.

This is the kind of drama the Braves can live with, this is the type of drama that October demands. With a more rested bullpen and a team desperate to bury last seasons collapse in a champagne shower, these Braves can now get ready for the post-season, a whole 8 games early.