Imagine that it’s the middle of February 2020. You are happily reading news of spring training, and you are optimistic about the Braves’ upcoming season. You’ve seen some news accounts about a new virus in Asia, but you see no reason to worry about that here in the USA. Your focus in on baseball and the promise of a new season.
All of a sudden a figure appears in your living room. He claims to be a time traveler who has just come from the future, specifically from September 22, 2020. He tells you that the Braves just clinched their third consecutive Division crown with a victory on that night.
That makes sense to you—maybe this guy is an actual time traveler, because winning the division is what you expect. As you look forward to the 2020 season, our Braves are set up to be competitive in the division for a third straight year. It’s likely the offense may not be as strong in 2020, given the loss of Josh Donaldson. But Anthopolous has spent a lot of money on the bullpen, and the Braves have a surplus of starting pitching. With Soroka and Fried having established themselves in 2019 as stars, with Folty coming on strong in the last couple of months of 2019, with Sean Newcomb set to return to the rotation after a strong year in the bullpen, with the signing of Cole Hamels and King Felix to provide veteran presents, with Touki and Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson perhaps ready to take it to the next level (and maybe even Anderson, Muller, and Davidson, although they are more likely 2021 contributors), there is an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Even with possible injuries, there ought to be a strong starter most every night.
Your visitor tells you that the starter on September 22, the night the Braves clinched, is Bryse Wilson. That surprises you a little, since he is pretty far down the depth chart in the spring. But it must mean that he has indeed stepped it up a couple of notches and has become a productive member of the rotation. Then your visitor says, No, Wilson has not been effective. His ERA in only four appearances is over 7, and he has as many walks as strikeouts. “Why the heck is he starting a crucial game in the middle of a pennant race?” you ask. “He’s the best they can do,” is the reply. Fried, Anderson, and Wright are in the rotation, but there is no one else they can turn to start such a pivotal game. No other starter on the staff has won more than one game. But young Wilson comes through on this night, tossing five scoreless innings, with 7 strikeouts and only 3 hits and 1 walk and the Braves went on to win the game and the pennant.
Then he tells you that the team in second place, the only team who had a chance to catch the Braves for the pennant, is the Marlins. The Nationals, Phillies, and Mets have already been eliminated.
Now you know that the whole thing is a hoax; what your visitor is telling you is too fantastic to possibly be the truth. So you ask him to leave and tell you no more ridiculous things about this supposed future. That’s a good thing–if you let him tell you all the other stuff that happens between February and September 2020, you’d probably not be able to face another day.
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This game can be summarized pretty simply. Wilson was excellent. I gave you his line above. He threw 77 pitches, 50 of them strikes. He pounded the inside corner with his fastball. As he was blanking the Fish through 5, the Braves scored on solo homers by Ozuna and Albies in the first and second and a two run double by the Mime in the 4th. Tomlin went 2 innings, giving up a solo homer to Marte in the 6th. The Hammers broke it open in the bottom of the 7th: the inning started with Swanson solo homer, RAJ double, Freeman 2-run homer, and all of a sudden it’s 7-1. They batted around in the inning and scored 5 runs, making it a 9-1 ballgame. If they were going to have champagne, it would be time to get it ready. But since it’s 2020, no bubbly in the clubhouse.
Minter held them scoreless in the 8th (even after loading the bases with no outs). Our guys tacked on 2 more in the 8th on yet another Ozuna moon shot, Webb pitched a scoreless 9th and the Braves won 11-1. Three consecutive division titles.
Freddie snapped out of his mini-slump with a single, double, and a homer. Not to be outdone, Ozuna had 4 hits and 2 massive homers. Ozzie had 3 hits and a homer; he’s hitting over .400 and slugging a lot more than that since his return from the IL. Dansby appears to be coming out of his 2 week slump with 2 hits and a homer. A lineup that was awfully stout even without Ozhaino is now just about the best I’ve ever seen in all my years of following the Braves.
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I know that with our unproven rotation the odds of going all the way and winning the World Series aren’t great. But if we’ve learned anything this year, Yogi was right—predictions are tough, especially about the future. This team is special and I like our chances!