Atlanta Braves Carry High Expectations Into the Playoffs
Fans in Atlanta had grown used to the Atlanta Braves clinching the National League East. Unfortunately, they had also become accustomed to that same celebration being the final high point in a season that typically ended in a disappointing playoff loss. However, with their first division crown in eight seasons, these Braves may be ready to finally cap their year with a World Series title.
The current Braves roster has an early-90s feel. There is a good mixture of homegrown talent (Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Julio Teheran), acquired pieces (Justin Upton, Chris Johnson) and veteran leadership (Dan Uggla and the injured Tim Hudson). This is not unlike past teams led by Chipper Jones, Fred McGriff and David Justice. This is a franchise that has always built from within, adding outside pieces only when necessary. It is a strategy that was imitated by their current biggest rival, the Washington Nationals.
While there is plenty to be optimistic about in Atlanta, a few giant obstacles remain. There is a $200 million reclamation project out west and a familiar foe in St. Louis. Currently, the Braves would not have to face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or St. Louis Cardinals until the National League Championship Series. They would also have home-field advantage should they make it that far.
A return to the top of the standings is always an accomplishment, but their success will be measured in the playoffs. They are expected to defeat whomever wins the play-in wild card game. Stumbling in the NLCS constitutes a failure, especially if the road to the World Series has to go through Turner Field.
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