It was a disappointing end to what was otherwise a great season for the Atlanta Braves who logged 101 wins and ran down the Mets late to claim a fifth straight division title. Unfortunately, as we learned last season, the regular season doesn’t really matter that much in the postseason which is much more about who is playing well at the right time. It was a bad time for the Braves to struggle, but the Phillies had a lot to do with that given their performance.
“We ran into a really hot team, pretty much,” Brian Snitker said after Game 4. “They were hitting on all cylinders. They were playing great baseball. They got big hits. They shut us down offensively, and I think all the credit goes to the Phillies. They got hot at the right time and played a heck of a series.”
Charlie Morton’s season ended for the second straight season after he was hit by a line drive at the mound. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to be quite as serious this time around. Morton underwent X-rays after the second inning and wanted to give it a try, but Snitker didn’t like what he saw when Morton went back out to warm up during the third inning.
“They did X-ray him. There wasn’t anything in the joint,” Snitker said. “He said I’m going to try it and I’m thinking if it doesn’t go well then I think we’re in a deeper hole. I watched the warm-up pitches and I just told him my eye test wasn’t real good right there.”
“He would have kept going,” Snitker added. “I just thought we were at a point where we don’t need to try it. Because I mean he wanted to continue to pitch. I watched the warmups, I wasn’t convinced.”
Coming into the postseason, one of the reasons for optimism was the strength of the team’s starting rotation. However, that isn’t how the series played out. Outside of Kyle Wright’s six scoreless innings in Game 2, Morton, Spencer Strider and Max Fried combined to allow 15 hits, 14 runs (12 earned) in just 7 2/3 innings.
“Just bad timing, I guess,” Snitker said of the rotation’s struggles. “We talked a lot about this. We had a rotation this year and it was solid. Those guys were really good and I’m never going to make excuses. We got outplayed this series and we just didn’t make it happen like we should where we needed to.”
Unfortunately many will measure the success of this team by its performance in the postseason. That goes along with it and 2021’s World Series championship no doubt raised expectations. The harsh reality is that Major League Baseball hasn’t had a repeat champion since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. The expanded postseason has just added to the difficulty. The Braves trailed the Mets virtually the entire season right up until the end. They will never use it as an excuse, but it is a grind that can’t be overlooked.
The resiliency, how these guys kept fighting like they always do, how we were kind of treading water there for a long time and then they got it going,” Snitker said when asked how he will remember this team.
“Like I told them, the goal when we leave spring training is to win the division. Until you win the division, you don’t have a chance to do anything special because you never know what’s going to happen, you don’t know what team’s going to get hot, what things have to go right for you to go deep into the postseason. We got in. It didn’t happen for us this year.”
“They should be very proud of what they did this year. You just never know where the postseason is going to take you and what’s going to happen. We had a really strong year. The goal was to get into the postseason. We did and it didn’t happen. So you know what, we’ll take a couple months off and everybody meet up in North Port in March and get on and try and do it again.”
Dansby Swanson struck out in the ninth inning in what could have been his final at-bat as a member of the Braves. Swanson was just 2-for-16 in the series, but will enter free agency for the first time in his career while coming off of a breakout campaign in 2022.
“To me personally, everything, I love that guy,” Snitker said of Swanson. “Just what he brings, consistency. I’ve never seen a player that wants to win more than him and hopefully I get to reconvene with him. We’ll see, but I can’t say enough good things about that kid and his makeup and drive and determination and the person he is. I think the world of him. I have so much respect for him, how he goes about it. It’s cool, too, because I’ve seen the first day he got in here until now and how he’s grown and matured and the player that he’s become.”
So the Braves will head into the offseason with Swanson’s free agency as the biggest question mark. The team did a lot of the heavy lifting already locking up much of its young core long term.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Snitker said of the outlook for next season. “When we start up again it’s going to be very exciting because of that because we’re still young. We have talented players. I know Alex will get to work in the offseason and we’ll reconvene in March and the goal is going to be to win the division again.”