Well... that's all folks. The 2023 season has come to a close for the Atlanta Braves. Yes, it was much sooner than it should have been and ended at the hands of a division rival.
The Atlanta Braves had their chances in Game 4 of the NLDS but once again struggled to get a big hit when they needed it most. Philadelphia continued to just outslug them at every opportunity.
Baseball's best team and arguably best offense did not show up when it mattered most. Strangely enough, outside of Game 3, the Braves pitching faired pretty well during the series. What fans didn't expect was the offense to completely disappear.
Things looked good early on Thursday as the Spencer Strider, despite having traffic on the bases, was able to escape jams and give the team a chance.
The Phillies threatened to score in the second inning but another amazing catch from Michael Harris II kept that from happening as he caught a ball and was able to double up Nick Castellanos who wasn't able to get back to second.
In the fourth inning, Austin Riley hit a solo homer to put the Braves up 1-0 which was followed by a Matt Olson single. It looked like the Braves may break out for the first time in a while. It wasn't to be as Michael Harris II grounded out to end the inning.
Just like in Game 3, the lead did not last long. Nick Castellanos once again launched a game-tying homer to get the Phillies back in the game. It was on a slider which was incredibly flat for Strider most of the night. Trea Turner hit another solo homer in the 5th inning on a slider to put Philly up 2-1.
Spencer came back out for the 6th inning and got two outs pretty quickly. He was so close to getting through the inning and giving the Braves 6 innings of work with just 2 runs allowed. Unfortunately, Castellanos tagged him for another solo shot on a 1-2 count. This homer came off of a poorly located fastball.
That ended Spencer's night after 5.2 innings allowing 3 runs on 7 hits with 3 walks and 7 strikeouts. Despite the Braves being down 3-1, Strider did keep it relatively close for the offense to have a shot to come back.
A.J. Minter finished out the inning and got the last out to send things to the top of the 7th inning with no further damage done.
The Inning the Braves Want Back
The 7th inning will be one that fans look back on as what could have been. Phillies reliever, Jose Alvarado, got the first two outs relatively easily but then issued back-to-back walks to Kevin Pillar and Orlando Arcia. This made Rob Thomson go to his bullpen again and bring in closer Craig Kimbrel with 2 outs in the 7th.
Brian Snitker answered serve with a pinch hitter in the form of Travis d'Arnaud who replaced Michael Harris II. Forrest Wall also pinch ran for Orlando Arcia who was at first base. You could sense things swinging in Atlanta's direction finally.
d'Arnaud worked a walk and the Braves now had bases loaded and turned things over to Ronald Acuna Jr. for a chance to get Atlanta the lead. It's the moment Acuna had been waiting all series for. Brian Snitker brought in Nicky Lopez to run for TDA as he knew this was the best chance Atlanta had all game.
For once, the Philly faithful went a little quiet as they felt anxiety for probably the first time all series. Acuna worked a 7 pitch at-bat and hit the seventh pitch probably the best any Brave had all series and sent it soaring through the night sky. It looked like it was going to bounce off the top of the wall and score at least two runs to tie things up.
Phillies outfield Johan Rojas took a bad route but somehow recovered and ran this ball down to absolutely crush the Braves' best chance at getting back in this game. That felt like the dagger in the heart of the Braves.
It clearly got to Ronald as he declined to speak to the media after the game. He grabbed his bags and said he needed to go to the bus.
This is not how Ronald wanted his return to the postseason to play out but as we've learned the regular season means nothing. The playoffs are a fresh slate for every team to make their own destiny.
Atlanta's 2023 Comes to a Close
Pierce Johnson and Raisel Iglesias were the final arms out of the bullpen and allowed just one hit between the two of them. Keeping things close for Atlanta as they approached the final 3 outs of the game.
Gregory Soto came in with 2 outs in the 8th inning to face Matt Olson and did get him out but that ground out led to a scary moment for Philly fans as Harper and Olson collided at first. Olson's leg hit Harper's elbow that was surgically repaired in the off-season.
Luckily, Harper was okay and able to re-enter the game. I know Braves fans don't particularly love Bryce Harper but you certainly don't want to see a great player have their season ended that way.
Soto remained in the game for the 9th and issued a lead-off walk to Ozuna who advanced to third base on a perfectly placed single by Sean Murphy. Ozuna tested Castellano's arm in shallow right field and just barely made it to third base.
Atlanta had a chance to tie things up as they had runners on first and third with no outs. Matt Strahm then checked into the game and Kevin Pillar popped up for the first out. Eddie Rosario then pinch hit for Forrest Wall and popped out on the first pitch.
Atlanta really shot themselves in the foot a lot as they were not patient yet again. They swung at the first pitch in moments that really needed to see a pitch or two. It sucked any momentum right away from the team. The Braves finished 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left 8 runners on base.
The Braves season then came down to Vaughn Grissom who struck out on a check swing strike 3 call. This was the final out of the 2023 season for the Braves and left a sour taste in the mouth of a team that had such an amazing season.
The Phillies outhomered the Braves all series. Philly had 11 home runs while the Braves had a mere 3 home runs in 4 games. Atlanta scored 8 whole runs during the NLDS as well. That potent offense just completely disappeared at the worst time.
Now begins the long process of the off-season as Atlanta tries to move past the disappointment of an awful end to the season. It stings right now but eventually, that pain will go away and fans will have another season to look forward to.