Irony: Braves historic offense shrinks when needed most

MLB: OCT 12 NLDS Braves at Phillies

The Braves offense just might have been the greatest offense to ever grace a baseball field. They tied the record for most home runs in a single season, had three players hit 40+ homers and five hit at least 33. They also became the first team to ever slug over .500 as a team, along with numerous other record-setting marks. But following an early exit in the NLDS for the second straight year, who knows how they’ll be remembered.

Spencer Strider had a chance to extend the series in Philadelphia, and for the most part, he pitched pretty well. But every time he made a mistake, the Phillies made him pay. Nick Castellanos and Trea Turner combined for three homers, all solo shots. It was the only three runs the Phillies could muster on the night, but it was the only three runs they needed.

Ranger Suarez and the Phillies bullpen pieced together a gem, a mirror image of what they did in Game 1 when they became the first staff to shut the Braves out at home. Atlanta did take an early lead in the fourth inning after Austin Riley‘s second home run of the series. The Braves third baseman was really the only offensive player to show up in the entire series, accounting for three of Atlanta’s eight runs throughout the four-game series.

And that’s just the thing. The Braves came into this series worried about one thing — pitching. Yet, in three out of the four games, they held the Phillies to four runs or less. Had you said that before the series, 100/100 people probably would have picked the Braves.

Credit has to be given to the Phillies pitching staff. Their two horses — Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola — shoved. Ranger Suarez continues to prove he has ice water trickling through his veins, and Philadelphia’s high-powered bullpen lived up to their billing, especially in Games 1 and 4.

This was a series that, outside of one game, was marvelously pitched by both sides, despite all of the injuries on the Braves staff. The difference was the bats. Few mistakes were made, but when the Braves pitchers offered up a cookie, the Phillies sent it flying into a sea of red at Citizens Bank Ballpark. When the Phillies pitchers made a mistake, it usually ended up in the seats behind home plate.

Baseball is a fickle game that can chew up the best of teams and spit them out like they are the Oakland A’s. It’s a torturous venture where the only thing guaranteed is failure, which is what makes the moments of fleeting success a feeling only people that live and die with the team can understand.

Unfortunately, the story of the 2023 Atlanta Braves ended in heartbreak, but the story of this group, that story is only just beginning.

Photo: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

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