If you have followed the Atlanta Braves as long as I have (1970) and specifically referring to the 1982 Braves during the America’s Team Era with WTBS you are wandering if these 2010 Braves are trying to duplicate. After winning their first 13 games in a row in dramatic fashion. The Braves then lost five straight after their record start and by the end of May they were 27 – 20 and struggling. However, the Braves warmed up again, and they won 12 of their first 15 games in the month of June to jump to 16 games above the 0.500 mark at 39 wins and 23 losses. On the two days right before the All-Star Game, the Braves were still on the top of the Western Division by two-games in the standings.
During the second half of the season, Atlanta extended their lead to 9 games. This lead of nine games in the standings was the largest lead that the Braves had ever had since they moved to Atlanta for the 1966 season. This big lead in the Western Division did not last for long. During that long stretch of 21 games against just the Dodgers, the Giants, the Padres, and the Montreal Expos, the Braves seemed to be moving in slow motion both on the pitcher’s mound and in the batting boxes as they slumped badly and lost 19 out of 21 games – including an 11-game losing steak and four-game losing streaks twice.
On August 18, the Braves lost their third game in a row to the Expos, completing another four-game losing streak, and their won-loss record had fallen to just 63 – 56. In so doing, they had fallen into second place in the Western Division, and four games behind the Dodgers, who had moved into first place by winning 16 out of 20 games. The Braves seemed to be ready to “turn turtle” as a team and lose the Western Division for the 13th year in a row, and hence out of the post-season games once again. The Braves had not won a playoff series since they won the World Series in 1957, and they had played in precious few playoff games since then. (Seven vs. the New York Yankees in 1958, two vs. the Dodgers in 1959, and three vs. the New York Mets in 1969 – and losing nine of those games.)
However, the Braves righted themselves as a team, and their clouds of bad luck seemed to part. Beginning on August 19 with a win over the Expos in the last game of the series with them, the Braves roared back into first place by winning 13 out of 15 games while the Dodgers played ordinary baseball.
On September 3, the Braves’ won-loss record had improved to 76–58, they were ahead of the Dodgers by 2 1/2 games. However, their travails were not over, as they once again lost four games in a row and fell back into second place behind the Dodgers. Now, it was time for head-to-head competition with the Dodgers again. The Braves defeated the Dodgers in two consecutive games, on September 8 and 9, to once again move into first place (with a 78 – 62 record) by 1 1/2 games over the Dodgers.
There was more hardship to come. The Braves lost eight out of 12 games, including six losses to a different nemesis this time, the Houston Astros. This dropped the Braves back into second place, a full three games behind the Dodgers on September 22. The situation looked bleak again for the Braves.
However, the Braves did not fold up then, and they won seven out of their next nine games, while the Dodgers played ordinary baseball, and the Braves moves into first place for good on September 28. However, there was a final day of severe tension on the last day of the season. Beginning that day, the Braves were one game ahead of the Dodgers, with the Braves holding an 89–72 record and the Dodgers holding an 88–73 record. The Braves had a game in the Eastern Time Zone earlier in the day, and the Dodgers had a game with the Giants in San Francisco later on in the day in the Pacific Time Zone.
The Braves could have clinched the division championship by winning, but they lost their game game vs. the Padres 5–1 to fall to a 89 – 73 record. Then, in the later game, the Dodgers could have tied for first place by defeating the Giants. If that had happened, it would have required a one-game playoff between the Dodgers and the Braves to determine the Division champion. However, late in that game in San Francisco, the former Cincinnati Reds’ second baseman, Joe Morgan, hit a home run against the Dodgers to knock them down to an 88 – 74 record, and to put an end to the season for the Dodgers. Phil Niekro finished the season as the pitching star of the Braves with a 17–4 record, and Dale Murphy won the National League Most Valuable Player trophy by winning the league championship in home runs, tying for the championship in RBIs, and winning a Gold Glove in the outfield.
The Braves had won their second Western Division Title, and they were bound for the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Note that the Braves had won the first-ever Western Division championship in 1969, the year in which the Eastern Division and the Western Division had been established. Then, the Braves had posted a 93–69 won-loss record by playing very strongly in second half of the season. For the Braves, Niekro himself had had finished second for the Cy Young Award with 23 wins, and Hank Aaron had finished second in the league with 44 home runs. Thus, each of these teams had won the division by having one truly outstanding pitcher, and one truly outstanding batter.
Since the Braves had finished at 89 – 73, this meant they had only recorded a 76–73 record after beginning the season at 13–0 start. On the other hand, the good news was the Braves recorded a healthy 26–17 record after August 18. 1982 was just the Braves’ second season with a winning record since they recorded an 88–74 record in 1974 and finished in third place in the Western Division. The Braves’ only other (barely) winning season during that period was in 1980, when they struggled to an 81–80 finish. (The Braves played an odd number of games in 1980 since they had a game rained out during the season, and since the 162nd game would have no effect whatsoever on the standings, no make-up game for that game was ever played. It had become a moot point by then. By the way their skipper was Joe Torre who led them to a Western Division Championship.
These 2010 Atlanta Braves have given us a very similar season so far. With hot streaks, great and dramatic finishes, losing streaks to make one wander if this is a repeat of 1982. The only difference here, they will be playing the Phillies at home for a 3 game regular season finale series. Let’s hope for a different outcome in regards the 1982 club, as this 2010 team should make it to the World Series again, the first time since 1999. Such as 1982, these Braves are capable of winning it all!