Cue the champagne cork popping sound fx.
The Braves clinched the 2019 NL East division title in game 155 at SunTrust Park with Mike Foltynewicz pitching, just like they clinched the 2018 title in game 155 with Mike Foltynewicz pitching. I’d be fine with them clinching the 2020 division title in game 155 at STP with Folty on the bump, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, as there’s work to finish this year that last year’s team didn’t get to.
The aforementioned Foltynewicz saved his best start of the year for the clincher, twirling 8 innings of 3 hit, one walk shutout ball while chalking up 7 whiffs. (As an aside, I think everyone needs to use ‘twirling’ more when describing good pitching.) Folty was working well with Brian McCann behind the dish, not trying to rack up 5 strikeouts an inning, and his command was absolutely dominant. He also was controlling his emotions, working out of 3rd inning one out trouble, pitching around a lead off error from Dansby Swanson (which, to be fair to Lt. Dans, was a do or die play that could have easily been called an infield hit) and a one out bunt single from Mike Yastrzemski retiring Brandon Belt on a pop fly to center that Ronald Acuna, Jr. had to rush in to snag and then striking out Evan Longoria.
San Francisco’s next scoring chance came in the 6th, when Yaz led off with a double and went to third on Belt’s ground ball to the right side of the infield (along with Chip’s contractually required ‘Productive Out’ comment). But Josh Donaldson snagged a wicked grounder off Longoria’s bat, and held the runner before throwing to first for the out and Folty then struck out Srephen Vogt on three nasty pitches. Folty finished up the 7th and 8th, eventually needing 95 pitches before giving way to Josh Tomlin who cleaned up.
The Braves offense by that time had put the game out of reach. Acuna started the game by working a walk off Tyler Beede. Ozzie Albies then refused to give RAJ a chance for steal 38 as he singled on the first pitch, send RAJ to third. Freddie Freeman drove him in with a sac fly to open a 1-0 lead.
Batman and Robin were at it again in the 3rd. RAJ doubled with one out and Ozzie singled him home to make it 2-0. In the 5th Acuna doubled the lead again, when he launched a 2 run bomb to deep right center scoring Folty, who had reached on an infield single off Beede’s glove.
BMac ended the scoring with a 6th inning two run shot plating Matt Joyce. If there is a more insulting (and funny) home run call than Frenchy’s Most Exciting Two Minutes In Baseball then I don’t know about it. But I’m sure BMac doesn’t care and would be happy to let Jeff use that more often.
So, Atlanta now has a chance to use the last week plus to get ready for the playoffs. Rest a few guys here and there, set the rotation for Game 1, get some injured players some at bats (I’m looking at you Dansby and Ender Inciarte), and figure out who’s gonna take the last spots on the bench and in the bullpen.
It struck me from about two seconds after BMac’s ball left the park, that both teams knew the game was over and it was just a matter of getting the last nine outs. I think this year’s team has gained a degree of swagger that last year’s team did not possess. And that, more than anything else, has me excited to watch the playoffs, because I’m betting there are a bunch of guys in the Braves clubhouse who know they can win it all. Not think they might, but know they can.
And that’s gonna make the next month or so exciting.