Even though the season ended in disappointment, it was full of amazing moments and highs and lows that gave us hope for Braves baseball. Ronald Acuña narrowly missed joining the 40/40 club, Brian McCann returned to Atlanta, and Max Fried and Mike Soroka emerged as a 1-2 punch that will anchor this rotation for years to come. While Ronald’s appearance in the Home Run Derby and Ozzie leading the NL in hits were also staples of this memorable 2019 season, I’ll stick to strictly team moments for this one.
Ironically enough, we start this off with a game against St. Louis. Riley was called up to replace the injured Ender Inciarte, and boy was he ready. Even though Austin Riley had a rough end to the season, for a month and a half, he was terrorizing opposing pitchers. It all started at Suntrust Park against Michael Wacha
This one set the tone early in the season; this team would not quit. With Austin Riley’s surge only beginning, the rookie provided the Braves a two-run bomb before Luke Jackson gave up the lead, and the Braves found themselves tied 3-3 against MVP candidate Christian Yelich and the Brewers. Freddie Freeman didn’t waste any time, ending the game with no outs in the bottom of the 10th against Josh Hader, who had only given up a .090 batting average and .185 OPS to lefties the season before. This one was so crucial, because it was around the time the Braves overtook the division lead and never gave it up.
We all remember the beef and the streak broken by Jose Urena because he was scared to pitch to Acuña during his rookie season. And we got to see why that was the case in 2019. Acuña is the Marlins’ daddy, and he let Urena know about it with an emphatic bat flip. He would finish with three hits and three RBIs to go along with the 398-foot opposite-field bomb. The Braves won 7-1 with Soroka throwing eight innings of one-run ball. Sweet, sweet karma.
In what would become Brian McCann’s swan song, he provided us with one of the most nostalgic and clutch moments Atlanta had all season. With Philly only trailing by two games in the NL East, we needed this one. This game was a heartstopper, Atlanta trailed 8-4 in the 8th inning, and after some clutch hits by McCann (Home Run), Ozzie Albies (Blooper), Charlie Culberson (Triple), Austin Riley (Double), Brian McCann stepped to the plate with 2 on and 2 out in the bottom of the 9th trailing 8-7, and the rest as Braves fans know, is history. Brian McCann delivered an epic post-game interview and got his moment in the sun in his return to Atlanta.
Charlie Culberson was dearly missed this postseason, and he lived up to his name against the Marlins. The Nationals were getting hot around this time, and with the Braves looking to extend their division lead, Charlie Culberson turned a double play in the 9th, hosing down Jorge Alfaro with a perfect strike to Brian McCann. The Braves went on to win 4-3 and headed into the All-Star Break on about as high of a note as you can get.
When Rafael Ortega was called up a few days prior in the wake of a plague of injuries to Nick Markakis and Austin Riley, Braves fans didn’t expect much out of him. After a very emotional game that saw Ronald Acuña get benched, every fan was desperate to take a series win against an LA team we thought we would meet in the playoffs. Dustin May had Ortega down 1-2 with the Braves trailing 5-3 in the 6th, Ortega came through for his first career slam, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Atlanta would win and take the series at home against the Dodgers.
We all knew he was due for one sooner rather than later. With the game tied 4-4 in the 10th after the Reds tied it up in the 9th and Tyler Flowers barely missing a walk-off of his own, Ronald stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on 2nd and 3rd. Down 0-2, Robert Stephenson threw him inside, and Ronald sent us all home for the first time (of many) in his young career.
The only loss on this list came the day after Ronald’s walk-off, but it still got me jumping up and down. Ronald Acuña unleashed an absolute moonshot against Amir Garrett in the 9th inning to tie the game. Even though the Braves would fall after giving up three runs in the 10th, this one is an all-timer. Stuff like this is why we love this kid.
The Braves feasted on the Marlins this season, winning 15 of 19, and a large part of that was thanks to Ronald. He posted a .319 average and 1.103 OPS with 9 HRs against the Fish, and the Braves did their job by beating up on the bad teams in this division. In the last game of the season, he provided some fireworks again against the team that beaned him last season.
Winning a division is hard in the majors, winning it twice in a row when you’re predicted to finish 4th by some “experts” can be even more difficult. With Philly opening their wallets in the offseason, the Nationals being scorching hot, and the Mets adding Stroman at the deadline, there were a million reasons for this team to fold. They didn’t, and they defended their title. Even though it ended in one of the worst possible ways, it was a special day on September 21st.
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