That word means a lot of different things in baseball. It might mean we got a generous or undeserved call from the umpires, like Max’s strike three against Alex Bregman in the fifth. It could mean that the ball broke just our way, like Adam Duvall’s 27-hopper cue shot against the shift in the sixth. It could be the way that Alex Anthopoulos got Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, for next to nothing combined, and they collectively hit .251/.325/.503 with 44 homers and 116 RBI in 676 AB in the regular season, and then .270/.339/.505 with 12 homers and 36 RBI in 16 games across the playoffs.
But what I really mean is this. The players who just won the World Series have worn a “150” patch this year to commemorate the club’s 150 years of baseball. And a hell of a lot of those were hard years: 82 years, mostly in the cellar, in Boston. Just 13 years, sugar rush then sugar crash, in Milwaukee, where they were sadly among the clubs that pioneered teams moving around in search of a more congenial city. And now 56 years in Atlanta, which many of you all personally remember from the beginning.
And ours is the first city to watch the team win a second championship. Today, we’re all kids again. I’m the luckiest fan in the world — my team won the World Series!
On the air, John Smoltz personally compared Fried’s six shutout innings in this particular Game Six to Tom Glavine’s eight shutout innings in the Game Six that took place 26 years ago. Smoltz said that Glavine’s eight was a bit more challenging as it was a one-run game, but otherwise felt that Fried’s night compared favorably.
Max is no longer a young man. He’ll turn 28 in January, and after five seasons and 447 innings in the big leagues, we have an idea of who he is. As a matter of fact, here’s what he’s done over the past two regular seasons:
|2020-2021||221 2/3 IP||21-7 W-L||2.84 ERA||3.26 FIP||158 ERA+||3.47 K/BB|
He finished fifth in the Cy Young vote last year, and he’ll probably get some downballot votes this year. He is, by just about any reckoning, one of the 15-20 best pitchers in the game. He got his ankle stomped on in the first inning, the first base umpire blew the safe call, and Max Fried got mad. He put the team on his back. This game turned into a laugher. He’s why.
I know Austin Riley has enormous power. So does Adam Duvall. So does Ronald Acuña, Jr. But Jorge Soler still stands out on this team. His career has been a bit like the Braves’ fortunes: immense promise infrequently fulfilled, clouded by a perception of disappointment.
He was one of the Cubs’ most tantalizing prospects in the group that won the World Series just five years ago — only five years ago! Can you believe that? — but they felt they had too many outfielders, so they traded him to the Royals for Wade Davis, the closer who had won the World Series a season previous. Davis was a one-year rental, and when the Cubs lost the NLCS, he walked. Meanwhile, Soler struggled with injuries and the minor league shuttle, playing just 96 major league games in his first two seasons in Kansas City.
Then he got healthy in 2019, led the league in homers with 48 blasts in 2019 as he played every single game — and then the world collapsed and his OPS fell 150 points in the truncated 2020 season, and he got off to a miserable start this year. For the second time in five years, he was traded for a reliever. For the second time, he got his legs under him on the new team and started hitting some of the most majestic and awe-inspiring moonshots any of us have ever witnessed.
Yeah, the story’s cool — it’s cool that he just kept playing baseball, like Brian Snitker, and didn’t let adversity stop him. It’s cool that, like Brandon Beachy and Evan Gattis, he connected with his love of baseball in independent league ball, and an area scout saw him and recommended him to the big club. But I’m not leading with the cool story. I’m leading with this:
Tyler Matzek has now pitched 20 postseason games over the last two autumns, and he has twirled 24 1/3 innings, striking out 38 men and yielding just seven walks (one of them intentional), 16 hits, and four runs. That’s a 1.48 ERA and a combined cWPA of 31.1% — over the past two years, he basically increased our odds of winning the World Series by one-third, and he did this while pitching in 9.7% of the team’s innings. That’s efficient. As nails as Jackson, Minter, and Smith were this fall, the whole rest of the Night Shift, the heart and soul of this entire staff was Tyler Matzek.
Here’s a comparison that may illustrate just how good Matzek was:
From 1997 to 2004, Ramiro Mendoza pitched in the postseason with six New York Yankee and Boston Red Sox teams, three of whom won it all (1998-1999 Yankees, 2004 Sox). He was the rubber-armed bridge to the back of the pen, the glue guy who tied the room together. He wasn’t Rivera — no one else, in the history of baseball, has ever come close to postseason Mo Rivera — but he was the next link in the chain. Matzek has been better than that.
Finally, this bar.
This is the first championship we’ve ever hoisted together. It’s been a hard couple of years for the country, and it’s been a frustrating couple of decades for the club and its fanbase. It’s been harder for some of us to root for the team and even attend the games since the move to Truist. Leave all of that aside. Leave aside the Falcons, the Hawks, and everything else. Many of us aren’t in Georgia right now, and many of you weren’t even born within a five-hour drive of the stadium. We’re here because of Hank, and TBS, and our dads, and our memories, and Ronald, and Freddie, and we’ve been here through the good and the bad. And Bravesjournal.com is where I’m celebrating. This is the parade. This is the champagne.
This is home.