National League East: Next stop, World Series…

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The National League East gained two entrants into this year’s Major League Baseball postseason: Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the Marlins knocked off the Chicago Cubs without batting an eye; meanwhile, the Braves beat the Cincinnati Reds.

Those two teams met in the National League Division Series and Atlanta made a quick sweep victim of Miami. The Marlins’ season had come to a close, but it was a remarkable one to begin with, given their proximity to COVID-19 at the onset of the season — a setback that many remarked would culminate in the striking of the whole enterprise. That never happened.

Winning five straight games, the Braves had worked their to the National League Championship Series and earned a shot at the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers.

The West Coasters from Tinseltown seem to be in this position every year these days — only to fall short at some step along the way.

When I was speculating about what the two East entrants would do this playoffs, I had Miami bounced by the Cubs in three — they made me drink my medicine one final time. I had the Braves advancing easily past the Reds and then dispatching the Cubs, as well. But the arc of my analysis departed from what appears to be materializing in reality: I had Atlanta being scrapped by LA. While I didn’t speculate as to how many games it would take, a reasonable person likely would’ve said six.

To fans around baseball, a potential Dodgers/Houston Astros rematch might seem appealing. As the games unfold, it doesn’t look likely that will happen. Instead, the Tampa Bay Rays bullied Houston down 3-0. As of this writing, the Astros have made the series competitive once again, claiming three straight victories to force a Game 7, giving themselves a chance to capture the American League crown. On the other side, however, things don’t look so hopeful for the Dodgers.

The Braves took the first two games without a ton of drama before the Dodgers unleashed chaos — not a nod to Under Armour’s branding campaign — in Game 3 when they plated 11 runs in the top of the first inning. That game was lost early on, but Atlanta took care of business in Game 4, and were poised to send Los Angeles packing as of Friday night…

Through five and a half innings, the game was deadlocked at 1-1. The Dodgers had trotted out Clayton Kershaw, while the Braves were forced to counter with Bryse Wilson. The latter ultimately threw six innings of quality work, allowing only one run; the former was left in a bit too long and was on the hook for four earned runs through five innings. The Braves went on to throttle the Dodgers, 10-2.

I find it hard to believe that the Astros can overcome adversity and reach the World Series in a year where nobody wants to see them anywhere near the trophy, so my pick is that the Rays advance to the World Series to take on, you guessed it, the East’s lone survivor, the Braves. Despite Atlanta’s streaks of success, their last World Series title came in 1995, the year I was born. As much as the Rays intrigue me, the Braves look as though they’ll ride their offense and plug-and-play methodology of starting pitching all the way to the end.

Perhaps what’s scariest about all of this: It could be argued that the Braves weren’t really supposed to be here yet — that the best is still to come. Stay tuned.

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