Braves players celebrate clinching the National League East division title.
NL East champions!
The Braves had a near-perfect season spending only one single day out of first place all year. They had a winning record the entire season — from Opening Day through their clincher — and glided into the playoffs without much of a scare from any divisional foe. Among all the contributing factors, what were the keys to their success? Was it the Upton brothers? Did it have anything at all to do with retired Chipper Jones? The suspense ends now. Here are five key reasons the Atlanta Braves won the NL East. The clincher: Braves win on Nationals loss Celebration videos Party in clubhouse Skipper Fredi Gonzalez | Justin Upton
Holding down the house
The Braves have the best home record in all of baseball this season going 52-22 at Turner Field. That's a ridiculous .703 winning percentage. When you dominate like that at home, you put yourself in very good position to make it into the postseason. Atlanta also has a good chance at locking up home-field advantage through the NLCS, which should be frightening for the rest of the NL contenders. — Statistics through Sept. 22.
No individual has carried this staff, which ranks tops in the majors in ERA (3.19). It truly has been a team effort. Atlanta has received standout performances from 22 year-old Julio Teheran, who is 13-8 and features the lowest ERA (3.09) in the rotation. Another great year from Mike Minor, who has provided team-highs with 191 2/3 innings and 169 strikeouts. On the back end, closer Craig Kimbrel has been as solid as they come, leading all of baseball with 49 saves. Even when Atlanta lost ace Tim Hudson to season-ending ankle surgery in late July, the Braves didn't miss a beat as Kris Medlen stepped up with another dominant second half, going 8-3 with a 2.63 ERA since the All-Star break. — Statistics through Sept. 22.
First baseman Freddie Freeman, who turned 24 earlier this month, was a revelation this season, leading the team with 105 RBI and 167 hits. In a surprise Final Four vote, he beat out Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig for the final spot on the NL All-Star roster in July. Freeman has been the Braves' best hitter in a lineup that showcases seven-time All-Star Brian McCann, three-time All-Star Dan Uggla, two-time All-Star Jusin Upton and the promising, but inconsistent, Jason Heyward. Everybody knew Freeman was good, but nobody expected him to outshine the rest of this loaded lineup. — Statistics through Sept. 22.
Fortunately for the Braves, no other club in the NL East really challenged them for the top spot. Washington only recently awoke from a near season-long slumber; Philadelphia was almost unrecognizable; the Mets were the same old Mets; and the Marlins — well — everybody knows their depressing story (Marlins Park looks great though, Miami fans, just gorgeous!). Atlanta's division rivals have been so bad that the Braves have owned first place since April 5 and spent only one day the entire season not at least tied for the lead.
On July 26, Turner Field became the first major league stadium with a Waffle House concession stand. This would have been just another delicious reason for fans to catch a ballgame if the Braves didn't immediately go on a 14-game winning streak starting the first night the stand opened for business. The streak extended their division lead to 15½ games, their largest of the season, and narrowed any chance the Nationals had of winning the NL East. Atlanta outfielder Jordan Schafer said it best when he tweeted, "We should have put that Waffle House in a long time ago."