At 11:17pm on Sunday night, Jeff Passan officially announced that the Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres agreed to a deal sending 2018 Cy Young Award winning LHP Blake Snell to the Padres for a few highly regarded prospects, including Luis Patiño, Francisco Mejia, Cole Wilcox, and Blake Hunt.
While this trade on the surface may not seem to mean much to the back to back to back NL East champions, when you dig a little deeper this trade will play a key role in the Braves’ efforts to re-sign the Big Bear to a multi-year contract this offseason.
In the 2018 NLDS, the Braves matched up with the Evil Empire out west, the Los Angeles Dodgers. LA were the heavy favorites going into the series, and expectedly so. The Baby Braves, coming off their first winning season since 2013, had no playoff experience compared to the Dodgers. LA easily took care of the Braves in 4 games, but just one game showed how much energy and talent is needed on both sides to win. The Braves were down 2-0 in the series as they headed back to Atlanta for an elimination game 3. The Braves were absolutley shut down by LA’s pitching in the first 2 games, but in game 3, against a rising young star in Walker Buehler, the Braves took advantage of the rookie mistakes, and forced him to surrender a 5 run inning. The Braves however, surrendered 5 more runs soon after, but a Freddie Freeman blast to right sealed LA’s hopes for a sweep. The Dodgers simply out-hit us.
In the 2019 NLDS, the Braves were more than “Just happy to be here”. The Braves were looking to do damage, as they faced an old foe in the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals took an early 1-0 lead thanks to an offensive showdown in Game 1. Game 2 was won thanks to a dominant start from Mike Foltynewicz and clutch hitting from Josh Donaldson and Adam Duvall. Game 3 was won in the last inning thanks to unbelievably clutch hitting from Dansby Swanson, and Adam Duvall (again). Game 4 however was lost due to clutch hitting from Yadier Molina and the Cardinals’ late-inning rally. Game 5 will infamously go down as one of the worst games in Braves’ history, thanks to a 10 run first inning. The Cardinals simply outhit us.
In 2020, it was a bit weirder. The Braves started off by facing the Cincinnati Reds, and they’re elite pitching combo of Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray. In game 1, Bauer absolutely mowed through our lineup, allowing 0 runs through 7.2 innings. Their bullpen also shut us down. Fried had 7 elite innings of his own. However, the Braves won thanks to timely hitting from Freddie Freeman. Game 2 was another pitching duel, and the game was scoreless until a 5th inning Acuña Jr single broke it open 1-0. The game stayed 1-0 until the 8th when Adam Duvall and Marcell Ozuna both hit big blasts against Raisel Iglesias. We moved onto the Marlins after that. The bats were alive in game 1, as Ronald hit a leadoff Homerun, and clutch hitting from Marcell Ozuna, and Travis d’Arnaud won us the game. Game 2 and game 3 were both games where the Braves pitching dominated and the offense followed suit. Braves swept. Next series : NLCS against the Dodgers. This time wasn’t going to be so easy for LA. In game 1 it was a pitcher’s duel, as both Walker Buehler and Max Fried gave up just 1 run, both being solo blasts. It was 1-1 in the 9th when Austin Riley hit a mammoth shot to left-center, which started a barrage of runs in the top of the 9th. Braves would win 5-1. Game 2 was basically the same. Lots of runs, and dominant pitching. Game 3 was a blowout as it was a replica of game 5 from 2019. Thankfully this only cut out series lead to 2-1. In Game 4, Bryse Wilson dominated on the bump, as the Braves would win in convincing fashion thanks to great offensive production. Games 5 and 6 were the same. Offensive production wasn’t there for us, and it was for the Dodgers. The Dodgers forced game 7 and won it thanks to timely hitting from Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers simply out-hit us.
I just typed all that out to get my point across. Hitting will win ballgames. Pitching may be a key role in a championship season, but if your pitching holds it down and the offense can’t capitalize, you won’t win championships. Marcell Ozuna brought an energy and bat that helped the offense win games, and ultimately take that 3-1 lead over LA. Especially against teams from other divisions in playoff games, Offense is key, and Ozuna was a HUGE reason the offense was as elite as it was. Marcell Ozuna is a necessity to bring back for next season and beyond.