Braves happy entering playoffs under the radar
By Julian Linden
(Reuters) - For the first time in nearly a decade, the Atlanta Braves have won the National League East division crown, raising fresh hopes they can rekindle their glory days and make a charge at winning the World Series.
The Braves (96-66) finished the regular season 10 games clear of their nearest rival in the division with a win total that was just one shy of the best in the league, shared by the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals.
But for all their success, doubts remains about how far they can go in the postseason, partly because of their poor record in the playoffs but also because of their lean run in recent years.
"We've kind of been under the radar all season," said Braves third baseman Chris Johnson. "Every time we win people say, 'They're playing weaker teams,' or, 'They strike out too much,' or, 'They're not going to win in the playoffs.' After a while it becomes a challenge. And it fuels you at the same time."
Not so long ago, it was almost expected Atlanta would reach the postseason. Between 1991 and 2005, they won 14 consecutive division titles and five National League pennants.
But not so in recent years and Atlanta's record in the postseason continues to haunt them. Despite all their success in that golden era, they won the World Series just once, in 1995.
Since 2000, the Braves have made the playoffs eight times but only made it past the first round once. Last year, they were eliminated in the Wild Card game.
With that type of playoff record, it is little wonder that confidence among their supporters is not high, even though they had a great season. Continued...