Tuesday night’s 7-0 victory over the Houston Astros in Game Six of the World Series made Atlanta Braves the eighth different champions of baseball in eight years, further underlining the unpredictability of American sports.
The Braves’ 4-2 series triumph denied Dusty Baker’s Astros the opportunity to win a second world title in five years and claimed a first crown for Atlanta since their 1995 success over the Cleveland Indians.
On the back of six scoreless innings from Max Fried, Jorge Soler’s 436-foot three-run home run in the third inning set the Braves on their way to a series-clinching victory. Dansby Swanson followed that up in the fifth with a two-run blast to give Atlanta a 5-0 lead they never looked likely to lose. Freddie Freeman then added an RBI double, scoring Soler, later in the same inning and put the cherry on the icing with a solo shot in the seventh.
It was fitting that Freeman should provide the final run in what could technically be his last game as a Brave 14 years on from being selected in the second round of the 2007 draft. The five-time All-Star becomes a free agent following the end of his eight-year $135 million deal, but there is an acceptance throughout baseball that the Braves will get something done with Freeman to ensure the first baseman returns to Truist Park in 2022 and beyond.
The Braves added their name to the list of recent champions, with no repeat winners of the World Series since 2014. Following the San Francisco Giants’ third triumph in five years that season, the Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, Astros, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers and now Braves have all got their hands on the Commissioner’s Trophy.
This is the longest stretch without a repeat winner in World Series history, while the Braves become the 15th different franchise to be crowned champions since 2001. In an era when many sports around the globe, including football, are suffering from a bout of predictability as the richest clubs dominate the honours, the fact that half of the 30 Major League Baseball teams have won a championship in the past two decades says a lot for the draft/trade system which has served the sport so well for so many years.
The Astros’ bid to buck the recent run was undermined by their big-hitting bats going quiet during the World Series, with Jose Altuve’s two home runs in Games Two and Four being their only homers in the entire series.
Soler, winning his second championship after a 2016 success with the Cubs, led the way with three homers. Each one was a go-ahead shot too, helping him to win the World Series MVP award. The Cuban was one of a number of key additions to the Braves roster prior to July’s Trade Deadline, with Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson also proving to be inspired signings as Atlanta turned around a 46-48 start into an 88-73 record to win a fourth straight National League East title and a fourth World Series in franchise history.