The Principality

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Atlanta are Eastern Division Champions Once Again!

It didn’t matter that mathematically the Atlanta Braves were crowned the NL East Champions for 2013 in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game in Chicago.  It was only after Craig Kimbrel secured the final out of a 5-2 victory over the Cubs that the celebrations began.  The Braves entered Sunday with a magic number of 1, meaning that either a win over Chicago or a defeat for the Washington Nationals in either of their games against Miami would crown a new NL East winner and end the Braves’ 8 year title drought.  With the Nationals losing their first game against Miami while the Braves were still in action, the win over the Cubs served as merely the icing on the cake and pushed Atlanta closer to the league’s best record and home field advantage through to the World Series.


"What a great feeling," manager Fredi Gonzalez said after securing his first title as a manager. "It really is a great feeling to realise we've played 150-some games to get to this point. We knew early on that the Nationals had lost but we still wanted to be able to celebrate and come out with a win. And we did."  There was a party atmosphere in the clubhouse as players donned T-Shirts proclaiming “We Own The East”, smoked large cigars and sprayed each other with the traditional champagne shower.  "We've been trying to get this over with," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "It's exciting. It's the best feeling I've ever had playing baseball."


In chases his first batting title, Johnson has been instrumental in getting the Braves to this point, yet the day belonged to shortstop, Andrelton Simmons, who accounted for three of the Braves’ runs with two homers, taking his season tally to 17.  His first crept over the ivy by the left field foul pole but there was no doubt about his second, a two-run shot that sailed over the head of Cubs centre fielder, Brian Bogusevic.  In a superb all-round performance, the Curacao native also made a great bare-handed play in the bottom of the third inning to retire the speedy Starlin Castro.  "It's unbelievable what he does in the field and then all of the sudden he comes out and hits two home runs," said first baseman Freddie Freeman of Simmons. "It's just icing on the cake. He's been great the whole year."


The championship was a true team effort though and every player was able to contribute at some point during the campaign, particularly in what turned out to be a season plagued by injuries.  One of the most impressive seasons came from rookie pitcher Julio Teheran, who claimed the win with a strong six innings, giving up just one run on four hits and striking out seven.  The young right hander has proved all season that he is capable of handling a postseason starter’s role and will almost certainly fill one when Gonzalez sets his rotation in just over a week’s time.  “Wow! #ThisIsWhyWeChop” he tweeted in the midst of the celebrations.


It has been a season to remember for the Atlanta Braves and the players and fans alike hope that there are several more chapters to write before it comes to a fairy-tale ending next month.  For now though, a week of the regular season remains and the Braves are focused on securing the league’s best record.  "Hopefully we can keep this going, and I think we will," Gonzalez said.  "I think we'll show the fans at home that we still have some business to take care of."


The Braves now return to Atlanta to complete the season with three games against the Milwaukee Brewers and then four against the Philadelphia Phillies.  Mike Minor looks to bounce back and take his 14th win against Marco Estrada in Monday’s opener.


Andrew Bracegirdle

22nd September 2013