As September unfolds, the Atlanta Braves find themselves in an enviable position, poised to secure their sixth consecutive National League East title. With just 23 games remaining in the regular season, their magic number to clinch the division stands at 10, and they maintain a commanding 14-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Since July 20, the Braves have consistently held a double-digit lead, with only two exceptions. Despite their strong season, the Braves have had a mixed start to September, going 3-3 in their first six games. Their recent series loss to the last-place St.
Louis Cardinals was a surprise, as they were outscored 26-20 over three rounds. Thursday's victory was salvaged by Eddie Rosario's spectacular backhanded catch, following a tough outing by Spencer Strider and a challenging start by Michael Soroka and Collin McHugh in the preceding games.
Looking back at the past five seasons, the Braves often entered September with work to do, but they managed to secure division titles in 2018, 2020, and 2021. However, in 2019, they faced a late surge from the Washington Nationals, who eventually won the World Series.
This is a reminder that a team that gets hot late in the season can make a deep postseason run, but it's not guaranteed.
September Surge, October Setback
Last year, the Braves were two games behind the New York Mets entering September but rallied to win the division with a tiebreaker.
However, they were eliminated by the Philadelphia Phillies in the LDS, highlighting that a strong September doesn't always translate to October success. Historical examples, like the 1993 Braves losing in the NLCS after a scorching regular season finish and the 2005 Chicago White Sox, who struggled in September but dominated the postseason, emphasize the unpredictability of October baseball.
The debate over the secret sauce for postseason success continues among analysts. While some focus on hot streaks, others emphasize pitching, bullpen performance, or hitting strategies. The 2022 Braves, considered one of the worst in recent seasons by winning percentage, became World Series champions, underscoring the postseason uncertainty.
As the Braves navigate September, manager Brian Snitker faces the challenge of positioning his team for postseason glory. In the unpredictable world of playoff baseball, the only certainty is that the proper formula for success will only become apparent once the postseason journey is complete.
Braves fans, analysts, and baseball enthusiasts alike will eagerly watch as the story of this September unfolds, hoping for a triumphant October finish.