ATLANTA — A year after eradicating their postseason curse, the Braves have every reason to believe this could be another glorious October.
They’re not lacking in confidence, of course, after passing the New York Mets in the twilight of the regular season to win the NL East title.
Heading into its NL Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta plays with the confidence of a team that has experienced the playoffs and won it all last year.
“Postseason experience is a big thing,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “And the only way you can acquire it is by going through this first.”
The franchise that broke a record with 14 straight division titles in the 1990s and 2000s is on another terrific run, starting in 2018 with the first of five straight pennants in the NL East.
Two years ago, the Braves snapped a nearly two-decade drought without winning a playoff series. Last year they finally came out on top, winning the World Series for the first time in 26 years.
Now no one seems to be carrying the weight of all those postseason failures.
“I’m so thankful and appreciative that we’ve been able to put this behind us and climb one more rung up the ladder each year,” Swanson said.
The Phillies are in the playoffs for the first time since 2011. They fell well behind the Braves and Mets in the Eastern Division, but they got the final wild-card spot.
And they are taking advantage of his return. They swept St. Louis in the wild card round and will meet their division rival Braves again.
No one will remember that 14-game deficit between Philadelphia and the Braves in the regular season if the Phillies can pull off an upset in this five-game maximum series that begins Tuesday.
Braves ace Max Fried (14-7) will face Venezuelan left-hander Ranger Suarez (10-7).
Philadelphia had to overcome the firing of manager Joe Girardi in early June and various injuries.
“We’re definitely not afraid of challenges,” first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “We’ve hit some hurdles…and it just makes this all the sweeter.”
There was a time when it seemed in doubt that Atlanta would even get a wild-card berth, after falling 10 1/2 games behind the Mets in late May.
Since then, the Braves have been the best team in baseball, going 78-34. Most memorable for them was the three-game series sweep of the Mets on the final weekend of the regular season to win another division title on tiebreaking — both teams finished 101-61.
Thus, Atlanta rested in the first round of the playoffs. And this seems more important now, after the elimination of New York against the San Diego Padres in one of the wild card series.
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Braves face the Phillies to continue their search for the bi-championship