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Three Thoughts From Atlanta's World Series Win

Thanks to Jorge Soler's power surge, Max Fried's gem and Alex Anthopoulos's deadline moves, the Braves are champions for the first time in 26 years.

Three thoughts on the Braves winning their first World Series title since 1995, just the second major sports championship for the city of Atlanta:

Atlanta capitalizes on another Soler power surge

Forget all of the tears that you've cried
It's over (over, over, over)
It's a new state of mind
— Lorde, "Solar Power"

MLB offenses have never been more centered around the round-tripper, so it’s fitting how the team that outslugged its opponents brought home the title. And no slugger was more prominent in this Fall Classic than World Series MVP Jorge Soler.

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Atlanta crushed three home runs in its 7–0 win over the Astros in Game 6. Soler’s mammoth go-ahead shot left the confines of Minute Maid Park. It was his third of the series, all of which were go-ahead blasts, making him one of four Braves players to hit three home runs in a single World Series. Atlanta finished the Fall Classic with 11 homers. Meanwhile, Houston had just two in the six games, both of which were hit by Jose Altuve.

Freddie Freeman’s dagger in the seventh inning, a trademark Freeman bomb on an inside-out swing to left-center, was his fifth in Atlanta’s 16 playoff games. That tied Fred McGriff (1996) for the most in one postseason in franchise history.

Atlanta Braves designated hitter Jorge Soler (12) celebrates with first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) after hitting a three-run home run against the Houston Astros.

Braves designated hitter Jorge Soler (12) celebrates with first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) after hitting a three-run home run against the Astros in the third inning.

Teams were 25–2 during this postseason when they out-homer their opponents, per MLB.com’s Sarah Langs. One of those losses was Atlanta’s Game 5 defeat to Houston, which had Braves fans on pins and needles, waiting for another collapse. They needn’t have been. This was the best team in the postseason—an outfit that was never pushed to the brink of elimination and outhit the regular season’s best offense.

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Fried delivers old-school Braves outing

The last time the Braves won the World Series in 1995, baseball was a different game. Atlanta relied on three future Hall of Fame starters and young fireballer Steve Avery to silence the best offense in baseball in Cleveland (3.2 runs per game). These Braves had only two reliable starters left on the roster after Charlie Morton’s injury, but limited the best offense in baseball in Houston to 3.3 runs per game. And Max Fried turned back the clock to deliver the sort of outing that puts him in the same company as Tom Glavine. As was the case with Glavine in '95, Fried also didn't allow any runs in the title clincher.

Fried's outing started rather ominously. The 27-year-old seemed to narrowly avoid a major injury when his ankle was accidentally stomped on by Astros outfielder Michael Brantley as Fried was covering first base on a grounder. Brantley was called safe because Fried's foot wasn't on the bag—a rare misstep in the field by the 2020 NL Gold Glove winner. It looked like we may witness another bloody sock game, this time because of an in-game injury.

Instead, we never saw any tangible evidence that Fried was affected by the alarming incident. To the contrary, it seemed to dial him in. After Brantley reached, Fried sandwiched strikeouts of Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel around a groundout from Yordan Alvarez to escape trouble. After that, he allowed just three singles, two of which were erased on double plays, in six innings—the longest start by either team in the World Series.

As our own Tom Verducci reported during the game, Fried throwing fastballs on just 24% of his pitches in Game 2 marked the second-lowest rate of his career. He then flipped that ratio to pump in fastballs on 75% of his pitches in the first three innings—including one 98.4 mph heater that registered as the fastest strike of his career—before relying more on his breaking pitches during his second time through the order. It was a 74-pitch master class in inducing soft contact that surely made Glavine proud.

Anthopoulos: The executive who never gave up

Alex Anthopoulos came to Atlanta on the heels of an international prospect scandal that resulted in former GM John Coppollela’s permanent expulsion from the sport. He also arrived to a franchise that had endured four straight losing seasons, including three consecutive 90-loss campaigns. Four consecutive NL East titles and the team’s first World Series in 26 years have followed.

And no one would have faulted Anthopoulos for punting on this particular Braves squad, which never received an inning from Mike Soroka, who re-injured his Achilles' tendon during his rehabilitation process. Ronald Acuña Jr., one of the best players in baseball, tore his ACL on July 10, leaving Atlanta with an-MVP sized hole to fill. With a 44–45 record at the All-Star break to go along with 7.6% playoff odds (and 0.3% World Series odds!), per Fangraphs, the outlook appeared bleak. Many were ready to bury these bad-luck Braves.

But Anthopoulos wasn’t. He embarked on what is surely the most ambitious midseason outfield makeover in MLB history, acquiring Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall—the latter three in the span of an hour before the trade deadline. All four outfielders hit three home runs during the postseason, doing more than enough to effectively supplement Atlanta’s tremendous infield core.

Rosario reached base 31 times, breaking Chipper Jones’s franchise postseason record of 30 in 1999. Duvall hit a first-inning grand slam in the potential Game 5 World Series clincher that had Truist Park rocking the loudest it had all year. If there was an NLDS MVP, Pederson would’ve won it with his pinch-hit heroics against Milwaukee. Soler did claim the World Series MVP.

And Anthopoulos was the man who oversaw all their acquisitions. Without him, or any of them, Atlanta wouldn’t have its second championship.

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