Around 360 days ago (give or take a few days), the Atlanta Braves were calmly exchanging handshakes in the small and cramped visitors dugout of Wrigley Field. The team ended the day with 92 wins and a lovely champagne celebration in the visitor's clubhouse after they sealed the clinching day with a victory over the Chicago Cubs. The Nationals helped give the title to the Braves with a loss to the Marlins, and all was well in Braves Country.
Now, fast forward nearly a year later, and the tide has turned in a big way. Instead of nearing 90+ wins, the Braves are still on 75, and are now 1 game under .500. They were put under .500 thanks to a 3-0 loss to the same Nationals who were sulking following a disappointing season in 2013. Those same sulking Nationals were doing anything but tonight in 2014, as the win clinched Washington's 2nd divisional crown in 3 seasons.
Although the path to this final moment of pain for the Braves was long and arduous, the finishing blow was quick and swift, as the two teams played at a brisk pace for most of the night. This was mainly because the Braves seemingly couldn't wait to get done with their at-bats, as Tanner Roark mowed through the lineup all night while each offensive inning for the Braves seemingly ended in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile, Aaron Harang actually had another good outing against the Nationals, and only made a couple of mistakes. One of those mistakes was a pretty big one, and it came in the top of the 6th inning with a man on against Ian Desmond. Harang threw an 80-mph slider that didn't do a whole lot of sliding, and Desmond proceeded to hit it to the site of the Braves' Groundbreaking Ceremony from earlier today.
Desmond's home run made it 2-0, and the Nationals added another run in the top of the 9th thanks to a wild pitch from David Carpenter. There have been countless games this season that have included a wild pitch at an extremely inopportune time for the Braves, so I suppose that it's fitting that the game that ended the 2014 NL East race for good included the Braves getting bit in the rear end by a wild pitch.
The 2-3-4 hitters for the Braves went down in order at the hands of Drew Storen, and the celebrations begain for the Nationals. A new divisional champion was crowned, and the Braves went back to the position that they started the season in back on March 31st: One game under .500.
There are plenty of reasons why both teams are in the positions that they're in right now, and we'll definitely get into them in the coming days. But for now, we have to congratulate the Nats on a well played season and a well-deserved divisional title (guess you've gotta tip your cap?), and meanwhile the Braves have to focus on at least finishing the season above .500.
2013 was only a year ago, but it couldn't feel any further in the past than it does right now.
<iframe src="http://www.fangraphs.com/graphframe.aspx?config=0&static=969684&type=livewins&num=0&h=450&w=450&date=2014-09-16&team=Braves&dh=0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" height="450" width = "450" style="border:1px solid black;"></iframe><br /><span style="font-size:9pt;">Source: <a href="http://www.fangraphs.com/livewins.aspx?date=2014-09-16&team=Braves&dh=0&season=2014">FanGraphs</a></span>