Instead, they are headed home.
The Braves lost to the Phillies, 3-1, Thursday in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, ending their season. For the second straight year, Philadelphia eliminated Atlanta in four games in the NLDS.
1. This part of the series will sting for Braves fans for a long time: Perhaps the most prolific offense in MLB history scored eight runs over four games. Eight. And five of them came in one game.
For four games, the offense disappeared – and it cost the Braves their season.
Why could the Braves’ offense not muster more in the season’s biggest moments?
“That’s a good question,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I mean, we thought we did everything possible during the delay, recreated things the best we could. And we can do everything right and all that and you start a series, and you know what, your offense doesn’t get traction. I mean, it could happen anytime. It happens in series, over the course of the summer.
“I don’t know that we could have done anything any better or been more thorough in what we did with our time off to get us ready to play, other than the fact that – you know what, when you’re doing that, the adrenaline and playing for something that’s not there. You know what, that’s a big deal. But the players were unbelievable in how they handled it all – the energy, the focus that they had. Yeah, I don’t know that we can do it any better.”
The Braves batted .186 as a team in the NLDS – the second worst mark in postseason play, ahead of only the Dodgers. The team that tied the MLB home run record swatted only three of them in four games. The series included one shutout.
Make it make sense.
“Their pitching was unbelievable,” Travis d’Arnaud said. “They executed everywhere, on everybody. Their bullpen was excellent.”
A historic offense went out in an unexpected way.
“It sucks,” Matt Olson said. “We didn’t have a four-game stretch like that pretty much all year, it felt like. Not taking anything from (Phillies). They just pitched better than we hit the entire time, really.”
2. On the biggest stage, the Phillies’ stars shined while the Braves’ stayed relatively silent.
Bryce Harper went 7-for-19 with three homers.
Trea Turner went 12-for-24 with three RBIs.
Nick Castellanos on Thursday became the first player in MLB history to have back-to-back multi-homer games in the postseason.
Ronald Acuña Jr., the likely National League MVP, went 2-for-14 with a double. He declined to speak with reporters after the game.
Olson went 4-for-16 – all singles.
Austin Riley led the team with six hits in four games, and two were homers.
Speaking specifically about Acuña and Olson struggling, Snitker said: “I can’t explain it. I don’t know what the remedy is. It’s just baseball. It happens and stinks when it does.”
“They pitched well,” Olson said. “Not only did they have good stuff, but they pitched well with it. Yeah, couldn’t get anything going.”
3. In Game 4, Spencer Strider battled. He gave his all, and left it on the mound. Even without the help of his offense, he tried to keep Atlanta in the game.
And yet, he still took accountability – which wasn’t necessary considering he was one of the series’ few bright spots.
The Phillies made him pay for three bad pitches by homering three times for three runs.
That was your ballgame.
“I felt like I had everything I needed to put us in a position to win that game,” he said. “We got the lead. At that point, I gotta be better. You make mistakes in the postseason to a really good team like that, they’re gonna make you pay. If your chance at winning is based upon hoping the mistakes don’t hurt you, then you got a really bad chance. So at the end of the day, I wasn’t good enough. That’s just the only way I’m gonna get better, is if I just accept that.”
When the Braves took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning on Riley’s homer, Castellanos responded by blasting a solo shot off Strider in the bottom half. In the fifth inning, Turner homered. In the sixth inning, Castellanos homered again.
Still, Strider proved his mettle: In two starts against the Phillies in the postseason, he allowed only four earned runs over 12 2/3 innings. He took the loss both times because his offense couldn’t back the effort.
Credit: Sarah K. Spencer/AJC
4. In the seventh inning, Phillies relievers walked three consecutive Braves to load the bases. Acuña, the likely National League MVP, stepped up to the plate, with two outs and the Braves down two runs.
He drove a 2-2 pitch to the warning track in right-center field. As it hung in the air, it carried the Braves’ special season with it.
It landed in the glove of Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas, who made a great play.
A missed chance.
The Braves thought the ball might drop.
“I didn’t think he clipped it great, but there’s a lot of balls over the course of the summer that I see get in the air, and all of a sudden, they just keep carrying,” Snitker said. “And when a guy like that hits it, you never know. I don’t know the exit velocity or anything like that. But when he hit it, I thought, ‘Man.’ When I saw the outfielder kind of holding up a little bit, I thought maybe this ball is going to be off the wall. I was hoping.”
In the ninth inning, the Braves got the first two men on base. The next three made outs. The final one came on a Vaughn Grissom strikeout in his first at-bat of the postseason.
5. A parting thought: These Braves will be back. They have the core to be here again. They will break through again.
“I think that’s what, I guess, makes us most comfortable: We know the same guys are gonna be here next year to try to do the same job,” Michael Harris II said. “Pretty sure we’ll add some people to help us do that, but for the most part, we know our core and who will be here to help us win.”
Nonetheless, this season ended in disappointing fashion.
Stat to know
1 - In the regular season, the Braves never had a four-game span in which they scored only eight runs. It happened for the first time in the NLDS.
“What happened this year was phenomenal, a phenomenal year for our club. Didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but it doesn’t always do that in this game. But I said (to the team), take a couple of months off and then we’re going to go back to North Port in the middle of February and gear up to do it again.” - Snitker
The Braves will report to North Port, Florida, in February 2024, with the goal of winning a seventh straight NL East crown and a World Series.