For the fifth consecutive year, the Braves are NL East champions

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At just 27-years-old, I’m not the oldest Braves fan, but this is easily up there with the best divisional races in Braves franchise history, partly because Atlanta was rarely ever in first place. On June 1st, the Mets led the division by 10.5 games, leading to this famous rant from SNY’s Sal Licata.

To be fair to the Mets, they didn’t choke this division away like usual. The Braves took it from them, owning the best record in baseball since June 1st at 77-33 — which is a 114-win pace over 162 games. This team has been a juggernaut, and despite that, this race still came down to the wire, with the Braves essentially needing to sweep the Mets this past weekend to win the NL East.

Of course, they accomplished that in resounding fashion, but finishing the job wasn’t easy against the Fish. After losing 4-0 Monday night, they needed to win one of their last two games to clinch the NL East, and today’s game couldn’t have been any more stressful.

The Marlins gift wrapped the Braves opportunity after opportunity, but Atlanta’s bats continuously let them down, scraping across just two runs. However, just as we all expected before the game started, Jake Odorizzi delivered his best performance in a Braves uniform to date, surrendering just one run on two hits with seven strikeouts over five innings.

That’s all this team needed because then Brian Snitker could turn to the most potent bullpen in baseball to wrap things up, and they once again delivered… but it didn’t come without heartache.

Collin McHugh and Raisel Iglesias pitched two relatively stress-free innings. Although, McHugh did give up a two-out double before retiring the side, but things got really sweaty in the eighth when A.J. Minter entered the game. A Jon Berti double with one out put the tying run aboard. Minter was able to force the next batter to ground out, but then two straight walks loaded the bases with two men down.

If you’re anything like me, you were pacing around your living room with a heartbeat racing at a million beats per minute. There was also the occasional shortness of breath, but all of Braves Country was able to take a collective sigh of relief when Nick Fortes hit a high pop out in the infield that was eventually caught by Dansby Swanson.

The Braves were never able to add any insurance, but Kenley Jansen — for one of the few times this season — came through with a stress-free ninth inning. He struck out the first two batters on six straight pitches, and after a long battle with Jordan Groshans, he finally forced a fly out to Ronald Acuña Jr. to end the game and clinch the NL East for the fifth consecutive season.

There were probably five different times this season most fans, including myself, felt like this team was dead in the water, but it’s a testament to the guys in the clubhouse. The Braves never stopped believing in themselves, and that’s why they continuously find themselves in this position year after year.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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