The Atlanta Braves and visiting Miami Marlins both still have plenty riding on their final series of the season.
The Braves (33-22) have clinched the NL East and have now moved past the Chicago Cubs as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. The Marlins (28-27) have a magic number of three to sew up a wild-card spot and nail down their first postseason spot since 2003.
It is the 20th division title and third in a row for Atlanta, which won a record 14 straight from 1991-2005 — excluding the strike-shortened 1994 season — as well as 1969, ’82, 2013 and the previous two seasons.
“This has been different,” said Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. “I’m proud of them, how they handled the whole situation. Everything is different, but it’s hard (to win a division) once, let alone three in a row.”
The Braves have won the first two games of the series and continue to hit at a torrid pace. They hit five home runs on Tuesday, the seventh time they have hit four or more this season. They have 50 home runs in September, six short of the club record set in June 2019.
Marcell Ozuna had two homers and five RBIs on Tuesday, giving him 17 homers and 53 RBIs — both NL-leading figures. Ozuna has reached base safely in 20 of 21 games in September and raised his batting average to .327.
“I don’t know if we could have done better,” Snitker said. “He’s done everything and more than what we’ve needed in that spot.”
Ozzie Albies hit a towering solo homer, his sixth. The second baseman went 3-for-4 and is hitting .396 (21-for-53) in 13 games since being activated off the injured list.
Freddie Freeman had three hits in the division-clincher, one of them his 12th homer. Freeman is batting .347 and has 50 RBIs, second in the NL behind Ozuna.
Miami will try to slow the Atlanta offense when it sends young Sixto Sanchez (3-2, 2.75 ERA) to the mound, where he will be opposed by Max Fried (7-0, 1.96), Atlanta’s No. 1 pitcher.
Sanchez is coming off his worst outing of the season when he was beaten by Washington on Sept. 18. He pitched four innings and allowed a season-high five runs. Sanchez faced the Braves on Sept. 8 and worked six scoreless innings in an 8-0 win.
Fried showed no issues in his return after missing a start with back spasms. The left-hander pitched five innings against the New York Mets on Sept. 18, allowing just one run. He has made one start against the Marlins this season and received no decision despite throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings and striking out seven.
Miami’s efforts to clinch a playoff spot got a boost when Philadelphia, the third-place team in the East, was swept by Washington in a doubleheader Tuesday. Manager Don Mattingly admitted he’ll be watching the scoreboard, particularly the Phillies-Nationals game.
“This time of year, it’s only natural that you’re watching all the teams that are involved,” Mattingly said. “It is nice when you’re in a tight race and you lose a tough game and see the team that’s chasing loses one also. It’s kind of a breath of fresh air.”
–Field Level Media