The Braves winning the National League East is bad news for the Nationals, good news with hope for the Orioles.
The Braves arrived a year or two early and won the NL East, a division race where the Nationals were the heavy favorite to win and make it to the World Series.
The Orioles are losing in triple digits, but they can take heart that two seasons ago, the Braves were on the bottom of rebuilding, struggling as the Orioles did this season.
Former Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis signed with the Braves after the 2014 season, just as the Braves were starting the rebuilding process.
The Braves rebuild included trading established players for prospects, signing international free agents and having patience to stick to a plan. They focused on defense and made sure to have plenty of young pitching. They also needed an experienced leader - first baseman Freddie Freeman - to keep the calm.
Three key players in the Braves lineup were signed as international free agents.
Third baseman Johan Camargo signed in 2010, second baseman Ozzie Albies in 2013 and outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. in 2014, the year the Braves signed Markakis and began trading big-name players for prospects.
Camargo is 24, Albies 21 and Acuna 20. Camargo is the reason the Braves didn’t pursue Manny Machado before the July 31 trade deadline.
Albies will get NL MVP votes and Acuña will battle the Nationals’ Juan Soto for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.
The Braves have rebounded from four consecutive losing seasons, three with at least 90 losses.
But consider how low the Braves were at the start of 2016. After the first two months, they were 15-36, on their way to a 100-loss season, maybe even challenging the 1962 Mets season of 120 losses.
The Braves finished with 93 losses.
After the 2014 season, the Braves acquired lefty pitcher Sean Newcomb from the Angels for shortstop Andrelton Simmons; pitcher Mike Foltynewicz from the Astros for power-hitting Evan Gattis and, shortstop Dansby Swanson, 24, and center fielder Ender Inciarte from Arizona for Shelby Miller, a potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher who wound up injured.
They had some luck, too.
Pitcher Anibal Sánchez, after not being able to stick with other teams, signed a contract late in spring training with the Braves.
The Braves’ largest deficit in the NL East was 3 1/2 games. Their longest losing streak was four games. They were never under .500. They’ve been 15 games over .500 on the road and 10 games over in one-run games.
Before the July trade deadline, they fixed their weaknesses. They added Kevin Gausman to the rotation, Brad Brach and Jonny Venters to an inexperienced bullpen, and the power bat of Lucas Duda for the bench.
Atlanta clinched the NL East on the same date they clinched in 2013. Back then, pitcher Julio Teheran was the starter and Craig Kimbrel, now with Boston, the closer.
In 1991, the Braves, along with Twins, were the worst-to-first teams. Each finished last in 1990, but made the World Series a year later. The Braves lost Game 7 of the World Series in 1-0 in 10 innings in Minnesota’s Metrodome.
That was an unbelievable season for the Braves.
But this season will rival that for drama, especially if the Braves’ magic takes them to the World Series.