- Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
- Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
- Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
- Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
- Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association
HOUSTON — The season’s journey of World Series MVP Jorge Soler did not begin with the Atlanta Braves. But it did end with the newly crowned champs, merging the stories of a player and a team that followed a very similar trajectory.
Soler emerged as the clear-cut MVP of the Braves’ six-game victory of the Houston Astros with a thundering three-run third-inning homer off starter Luis Garcia, giving the Braves an early lead that they expanded the rest of the way.
Before Soler’s blast, Game 6 had taken on the hue of a possible budding pitchers’ duel, with Garcia and Atlanta lefty Max Fried putting up early zeros. But with one swing of Soler’s lethal bat, Garcia’s night was over, and Atlanta was on its way to its first title since 1995.
Soler and Garcia battled for eight pitches, with Soler hooking two foul balls into the seats before connecting with a Garcia cutter that left the bat at 109.6 miles per hour, according to Statcast. The ball rocketed over the Crawford Boxes in left field, past the light stanchion, through the line of vision of the Minute Maid Park train conductor and out onto the street.
In the instant, Soler knew that he’d homered, as he dropped his bat and turned towards his dugout, pounding his chest and shouting as several of his teammates leaped over the dugout rail and jumped around on the wa\rning track in celebration.
Soler hit .300 against the Astros with three homers, six RBIs and three walks during the Series. He is the sixth player with three go-ahead homers in a single World Series and posted a slugging percentage of .800.
The championship is the second of Soler’s career. He was a member of the 2016 drought-snapping Chicago Cubs, getting two hits in that season’s thrilling Fall Classic.
This World Series moment would have seemed unlikely to the Braves and Soler alike on July 30, when Atlanta GM Alex Anthopolous swung a deal with the Kansas City Royals to acquire Soler, who became the third World Series MVP to play for a different team in the same season. At the time of the trade, the Braves were 51-53, in third place in the NL East, and had not been over .500 all season.
Meanwhile, Soler left the fourth-place Royals as the club’s single-season record-holder for homers (48), a mark that was tied this season by Salvador Perez. But that record was set in 2019. In 2021, Soler struggled badly during the early months of the season, hitting just .192 with 13 homers in 94 games before the trade.
However, his performance leading up to the deadline proved to be telling: Soler hit six homers and in his last nine games for Kansas City.
Soler fit right in on a Braves team desperate for help in an outfield decimated by injuries, off-the-field problems and underperformance. By the end of the season, Soler was batting leadoff for Atlanta, and as non-traditional as the hulking Soler might seem in that role, the Braves won 10 of 11 down the stretch with him batting first. Soler hit .269 with 14 homers in 55 games after joining the Braves.
During the NLDS round against Milwaukee, Soler’s postseason was derailed when he was placed on the COVID-19 injured list. He missed the last game of the series against the Brewers and the first four of Atlanta’s six-game NLCS win against the Dodgers. He returned for the final two contests of that round as a pinch-hitter, going 1-for-2.
Soler made up for the lost time in then some with his World Series heroics. In doing so, he became the third player to win World Series MVP honors after starting the season with another team, joining the Mets’ Donn Clendenon in 1969 and the Red Sox’s Steve Pearce in 2018.
Soler also became the second Cuban-born player to win the award, joining pitcher Livan Hernandez, who was MVP of the 1997 World Series with the Marlins.
Not bad for a player who exited the All-Star break with a struggling team and fighting to find his way at the plate. For the Braves and their fans, Soler and his bat arrived just in time.
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