2021 MLB playoffs: How the Atlanta Braves rebuilt their outfield without Ronald Acuna Jr. -- and saved their season

Depending on the precise point of the space-time continuum from which you read the following words, they may or may not be hard to believe: The Atlanta Braves are going back to the National League Championship Series.

That much became true on Tuesday, when the Braves defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 in NLDS Game 4 behind reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman's dramatic eighth-inning home run against All-Star closer Josh Hader.

Last season, the Braves fell one game shy of their first NL pennant since 1999. That they now have another shot to take that last step into the World Series is at once shocking and not surprising at all.

If you had heard this bit of news on the eve of the regular season, from a time-traveler who was really invested in NL East results, you would have shrugged. The team that almost made the World Series last year and has won three straight division titles is back in the NLCS? Big deal.

But that time-traveler had shared this news on July 10, you might not have believed them. The Braves were playing just .500 baseball, in second place in the NL East -- and, on that date, Ronald Acuña Jr. played his last game of the season.