We have been asked to write about some of our favorite Atlanta Braves postseason memories. This is such a hard task. I am grateful to root for a team that consistently fields a competitive team. They ensure I have something to root for every season.
As a kid, I watched the tape of the 1991 worst-to-first season every night before bed. It ended with a losing effort in the World Series to the Twins, but it was worth remembering. I watched as the Braves compiled 14 straight division titles and walked away with one World Championship.
I never took that as hard as some of my friends thought I should. Winning a World Series is really hard. I've never felt regret over being able to watch the greats like Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper, and the rest, day in and day out.
There are so many great memories. For me, I made the (odd) choice of the one win the Braves had in the 2013 NLDS against the Dodgers. This season represented a lot to me. Chipper Jones ended his legendary career with the Braves in a saddeningly dramatic fashion the previous year. I had just quit my job and started my own business with a young family to provide for, and this was my first season with MLB.tv.
I was ecstatic to have the Braves on every game. My (now teenage) kids and I still sing the "looky, looky, looky, here comes Cookie, Cook's Pest Control" song from the radio ads. Congrats to Cook's Pest Control for still getting ROI on that advertisement from 10 years ago.
While you are checking out local Atlanta businesses, check out the new DutchCrafters Amish Furniture Store in Alpharetta!
Anyway, MLB.TV was even better than TBS used to be (except it didn't show Seinfeld reruns or WCW Thunder) - which is how I became a Braves fan growing up in the Evansville area of Southern Indiana. I assume, much like Brandon Gaudin did at the same time. BTW, Gaudin, Harrison sucks! I don't really know that... I went to Tecumseh.
This series featured star-studded rosters. Names like Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, Tim Hudson, Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton (and his brother), Brian McCann, and Jose Constanza (no relation to George).
Kris Medlen and Clayton Kershaw were the best two pitchers in baseball since midway through 2012 (that's completely from memory, I'm not even going to fact-check myself... let me know if I'm wrong). Those two pitchers squared off in Game One (we capitalize letters out of respect to the magnitude of the game). The Braves spent all of one calendar day outside of first place in that 2013 season. That didn't stop the Dodgers from rocking the Braves 6-1 in Game One.
Game two featured Mike Minor, Zack Greinke, and a raucous Atlanta crowd with 40,000 foam tomahawks. Minor went 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA over 204.2 innings for the Braves. Greinke finished 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and finished eighth in Cy Young voting.
Hanley Ramirez doubled in A.J. Ellis in the first inning to put the Dodgers up 1-0. Greinke shut the Braves down in the bottom of the first. In the top of the second, Minor induced a very lick-worthy 4-6-3 double play between Elliot Johnson and Andrelton Simmons. In the bottom of the second, Simmons blasted an opposite-field double just out of the reach of Yasiel Puig to drive Gattis home, tying the game at one.
In the top of the third, Minor induced another double play. This time it started with Simmons and went 6-4-3. Ernie Johnson called it a "smooth" double play but it was even better than that. Enjoy the defense here.
Freddie Freeman doubled to lead off the fourth inning. Superstar 3B (at least in 2013) Chris Johnson did what he did all year with two outs and Freeman on third. He turned a breaking ball into a seeing-eye single allowing Freeman to score the go-ahead run. Johnson had such a fun year in 2013. That season was the best season of his eight-year career. He hit .321 (impressive for a guy whose career OBP was .313). His 124 OPS+ was the peak of his MLB experience. He also led the Braves in doubles with 34.
Minor finished the top of the sixth off with a big strikeout of Juan Uribe and his stupid butt-out stance. My hatred for Uribe comes from the end of this series. Minor ended his night in the seventh, finishing with 6.1 IP while allowing just one run. Not a bad postseason debut.
Luis Ayala relieved Minor and got a couple of groundballs. The first one resulted in a hit as Ayala could not find the bag on a grounder to Freeman. The inning ended on a grounder back to Ayala who started a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning. Simmons showed off his cannon again. Simba had every single thing you could ask for on defense. He could have hit .150 and it would have been acceptable in 2013. Instead, he hit a career-high 17 homers. Despite finishing with a 90 OPS+. Simmons finished 14th in MVP voting.
Jason Heyward padded the lead with a two-run single in the seventh inning to score two (including Chris Johnson who got on base due to a broken-bat groundball single, go figure). Thanks to Jason Heyward the Braves entered the eighth with a 4-1 lead.
Braves setup man David Carpenter came in to set Kimbrel up and he gave us all a preview of how the 2013 postseason would end. Carpenter surrendered two runs on a bomb by Hanley Ramirez. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wouldn't dare risk letting Carpenter finish the eighth and brought in his all-world closer Craig Kimbrel to slam the door in the top of the eighth. Kimbrel had a pretty decent 1.21 ERA that year.
In the top of the ninth, Dee Gordon was gunned down attempting to steal second. If you watch that replay over and over you would think he was safe. Then you watch it again and realize Simmons caught the ball with his glove scraping Gordon's butt and he was out. It's really incredible. The excitement reminded me how much I prefer the call at the moment over the anti-climatic replays.
Kimbrel would strike out Carl Crawford to end the game. The Braves tied the series 1-1 and left us all with nothing but optimism heading into the next day. I loved this season and I loved this team. It had to be one of the youngest teams in the league with guys like Freeman, Kimbrel, Heyward, Minor, Simmons, the Uptons, and so forth.
This young core followed up the end of a legendary era with the retirement of Chipper Jones prior to the season. 96 wins later, they found themselves in the NLDS against the Dodgers. This would be the only win for the Braves in the series. I'll never forget the electricity for Medlen vs. Kershaw in Game One or the excitement of the victory in Game Two when Kimbrel closed it out. I loved this season and will always remember it fondly... except for the ending.
I will always have David Carpenter's hanging breaking ball to Juan Uribe seared into my memory. However, you can't take this one victory away from me. Go Braves!
Man, I hate/love that picture.