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Atlanta Braves Crowned Champs

Jorge Soler

Jorge Soler

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

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For the first time since 1995, the Braves sit at very top of the baseball world.

They were crowned 2021 World Series champions after earning a decisive 7-0 victory over the Astros in Game 6 on Tuesday night at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

Astros starter Luis Garcia looked sharp in the early going, needing just 20 pitches to get through two scoreless frames, but he was working on short rest and appeared to tire rapidly in the top of the third. Ozzie Albies roped a leadoff single to right-center, Eddie Rosario drew a two-out walk, and then Jorge Soler got the party jumping for Atlanta with a tape-measure three-run bomb that sailed over the train tracks in left.

It was Soler’s third home run of this year’s Fall Classic, all of them being of the go-ahead variety. That’s tied for the most homers by a Braves hitter in any postseason series. Soler struggled in the first half of the regular season, but he rediscovered his power stroke after the Royals traded him to Atlanta in July and will now enter the record books as the 2021 World Series MVP. He is the third player to be acquired midseason and win that honor, joining Steve Pearce of the Red Sox in 2018 and Donn Clendenon of the Mets in 1969.

Albies, dropped to seventh in the order amid a rough postseason and an especially challenging World Series, went 2-for-3 in the clinching game with a walk and two runs scored.

Braves starter Max Fried nearly had his left ankle snapped on a play at first base in the bottom of the first inning, but he left two runners on in a scoreless frame and delivered a 98.4 mph fastball to strike out Yuli Gurriel, his fastest pitch of the year. That set the tone for his dominant six scoreless innings. Fried threw only 74 pitches, varying his four-seam fastball with a highly effective sinker while pouring in more changeups than usual to keep the dangerous Astros lineup off balance. It was the longest start by a Braves pitcher in this World Series, and he became the first starter ever to register six-plus strikeouts with zero walks and no runs allowed in a championship clincher.

Tyler Matzek took over for Fried in the bottom of the seventh and struck out four of the seven batters he faced over two scoreless innings of relief. Will Smith closed it out with a 19-pitch bottom of the ninth.

Dansby Swanson dazzled on defense and blasted a two-run homer off a two-strike Cristian Javier pitch in the top of the fifth to give Atlanta a 5-0 lead. Swanson also hit a two-strike homer off Javier in Game 4 on Saturday.

And we can’t forget about Freddie Freeman, the heart and soul of this Braves club over the last decade. He made it 6-0 with an RBI double in the top of the fifth, scoring Soler all the way from first base. The impending free agent first baseman then added an opposite-field solo shot to left-center in the top of the seventh. Freeman is the first National League first baseman with multiple home runs in the World Series since Albert Pujols hit three against the Rangers in 2011. He totaled five homers throughout the 2021 playoffs, tied for Fred McGriff in 1996 for the most home runs by a Braves player in a single postseason. Pay that man.

In this World Series, the Braves had 11 homers to Houston’s two. Both of the Astros’ homers were from Jose Altuve. They got zero big flies from Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa, or Kyle Tucker after those three combined for 89 in the regular season.

They became the first time to be shut out in the final game of a Fall Classic since, well, the Astros, who lost 1-0 in Game 4 of the 2005 World Series to the White Sox. That was obviously before Houston moved from the National League to the American League.

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A long offseason awaits with a new collective bargaining agreement up in the air, but it’s worth suspending that focus to celebrate what the Braves just accomplished. They ousted the NL Central-champion Brewers in the NLDS, topped the defending World Series-champion Dodgers in the NLCS, and just took down the reigning champs of the American League West. They’re just the second team to defeat three different 95-plus win teams en route to a World Series title, joining the 2011 Cardinals.

And the Braves did it without one of the best players in the league in Ronald Acuna, who went down with a torn ACL just before the All-Star break. Marcell Ozuna was arrested on domestic violence charges in late May and has been on administrative leave since. Mike Soroka didn’t pitch at all this year due to lingering Achilles trouble. Atlanta failed to climb above the .500 mark until August 6 and entered the postseason with the fewest wins of the entire 10-team bracket. Oh, and Charlie Morton broke his leg in Game 1. All of those obstacles: overcome.

Quick Hits: Anthony Rendon (hip) said during an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM on Tuesday that he expects to be ready for spring training … According to Dan Connolly and Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic, Orioles assistant general manager and vice president Sig Mejdal is on the “radar” for the Mets’ general manager position … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Twins assistant general manager Daniel Adler is not a candidate for a front office job with the Mets … Nationals hired Gary DiSarcina as their new third base coach.