MILWAUKEE – Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves ended the preseason with high expectations, after winning three consecutive titles in the NL East.
Then star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. And management had to figure out how to give the disappointing Braves the help they needed.
Atlanta hadn’t been above the .500 mark all season when general manager Alex Anthopoulos had to essentially rebuild the outfield just before the trade deadline.
Those exchanges helped Atlanta win a new pennant. And on Friday, the divisional series begins against the Milwaukee Brewers, monarchs of the National League Central, who also benefited from a series of adjustments in their payroll.
“In a way, getting these pieces gave us that drive, that energy to do it,” said Freeman, the Braves’ all-star first baseman and NL MVP in 2020.
Cuban Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson provided enormous support to the Braves, Dominican Willy Adames did the same for Milwaukee.
Both clubs had to look for revulsives to pocket a fourth consecutive berth to the playoffs.
“We’ve both made additions that have helped,” said David Stearns, president of sports operations for the Brewers. “We started a little earlier than most teams to make these decisions and make these acquisitions.”
Milwaukee was below the .500 mark on May 21, when he seized shortstop Adames from the Tampa Bay Rays. The Brewers had a record of 74-44 after the arrival of the Dominican.
Adames hit .285 with 20 homers, 58 RBIs and an 886 OPS.
“I don’t think he did anything special or crazy,” Adames dismissed. “I only came to the field every day to play the right way, have fun and enjoy this, because it is my life.”
The Braves did not seem to show weaknesses until the vicissitudes arrived. Promising center fielder Cristian Pache struggled and was injured; his Dominican compatriot, left fielder Marcell Ozuna, was arrested for an alleged assault in late May, following an altercation with his wife, and has not returned.
And at the beginning of July, the serious injury of the Venezuelan Acuña arrived.
“We’ve had to do a lot of combinations and adjustments all year long,” Freeman said. “It has been very exhausting, but I think the most special thing about this year has been that effort, trying to make things work out.”