Atlanta at Chicago

Chi. Cubs
W: D. Carpenter (4-1) L: K. Gregg (2-5)
HR: ATL - C. Johnson (11),F. Freeman (22)   CHC - S. Castro (10),D. Murphy (11),D. Navarro (13)

Braves pull away in ninth to reduce magic number to one wire reports

CHICAGO -- Teams usually can't wait to get out of the cramped quarters of the visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field. Not so the Atlanta Braves, who were delighted to put in some overtime in the less-than-friendly confines Friday night.

The Braves' 9-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs reduced their magic number to one and ensured them of at least a tie in the NL East.

The players decided to watch the game between the second-place Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins in the clubhouse to see if they would clinch the outright title -- even though Nationals-Marlins wasn't slated to begin until an hour and a half after the Braves game ended.

"Some guys are going to stay here and some guys' families are here, so they're going to go spend some time with their families," closer Craig Kimbrel said. "We're all going to be back here around the end of the game."

The Nationals won 8-0 to keep the Braves from clinching.

When asked if it'll be weird sticking around so late to watch the game in an empty ballpark, Kimbrel said: "No, we did it in 2010 with San Diego and San Francisco. It's actually, a lot of fun. Let's just hope the Marlins win."

If not, the Braves simply will look to take care of things during their next opportunity.

"This might be the best group of guys in terms of resiliency," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "They battle. They're a talented group of guys -- let's not forget that --but we've gone through some adversity at times, losing some key players earlier in the year and a leader on our pitching staff.

"It's a good group of guys; just a good team."

That all was on display Friday.

Chris Johnson went 3 for 4 with a home run, and the Braves broke open a tie game in the top of the ninth inning with four runs -- all with two outs. Brian McCann and Johnson each had an RBI single, and Andrelton Simmons followed with a two-run double.

Freddie Freeman earlier hit a three-run homer for Atlanta, which jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

"We had a chance for some add-on runs earlier in the game," Gonzalez said. "We some opportunities and didn't do it; [McCann] popped up with runners on second and third [in the fifth inning]. But that's how good this guy is. He comes back later in the ninth inning, facing a pretty good reliever in Kevin Gregg, and gets a base hit."

McCann made the most of his second chance.

"I was just glad to get a pitch to handle and not miss it," the catcher said.

Gregg (2-5) gave up all four ninth-inning runs, and that was just the start of his bad day.

Gregg had been told by manager Dale Sveum a couple of days ago that Cubs would take an occasional look at Pedro Strop in the closer's role, but Gregg took it to mean that he was no longer the closer and went on a rant against the front office after the game.

That prompted Cubs president Theo Epstein to get involved.

"Apparently Kevin misunderstood Dale and thought he'd had his job permanently taken away from him," Epstein said. "Despite getting the ball in the closer's role the past couple days, he apparently had some choice words. Upon hearing that I called him up to Dale's office to tell him how disappointed I was in him.

"I think it took him a couple minutes to understand that he'd misunderstood Dale and he ultimately apologized to me and Dale. I told him that I'd sleep on it and decide if we had any disciplinary action."

On the other side of Wrigley Field, the atmosphere was completely different as the Braves prepared for their postseason party.

"It's been a fun season," starter Paul Maholm said. "We started off real hot and built a big lead, we cooled off a bit, lost some people, but we were able to maintain that big lead.

"Hopefully, we'll go deep in their playoffs."


The Braves activated OF Jason Heyward before the game. He wore a facemask attached to the right side of his batting helmet to protect the right jaw that was fractured Aug. 21 when he was struck by a pitch from the Mets' Jon Niese. "I'm just really excited and happy to be back," he said. "I'm not going to be as good today as I will be in five days, but you have to start the process sometime." As planned, Heyward played just five innings, going 0 for 2 with a walk. ... The Cubs announced before the game that C Welington Castillo has partially torn meniscus in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season. He will have arthroscopic surgery and the expected recovery time is 4 to 6 weeks. ... The series continues Saturday with Cubs LHP Travis Wood (9-11) going against RHP Kris Medlen (14-12).

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Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman celebrate after the Braves put up four runs with two outs in the ninth inning.  (USATSI)
Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman celebrate after the Braves put up four runs with two outs in the ninth inning. (USATSI)

Players of the Game

F. Freeman
AB 3
R 2
H 1
HR 1

C. Johnson
AB 4
R 2
H 3
HR 1

Related Video

Atlanta Braves
Jason Heyward, CF2100111 .251
   a-Jordan Schafer, PH-CF-RF1100110 .252
Justin Upton, RF-LF3100210 .259
Freddie Freeman, 1B3213101 .310
Evan Gattis, LF5010002 .235
   Craig Kimbrel, P0000000 .000
Brian McCann, C4111002 .258
Chris Johnson, 3B4232102 .331
   Paul Janish, PR-3B0100000 .189
Dan Uggla, 2B3000224 .182
Andrelton Simmons, SS5012002 .246
Paul Maholm, P3011000 .140
   Scott Downs, P0000000 .000
   Luis Ayala, P0000000 .000
   Luis Avilan, P0000000 .000
   b-Elliot Johnson, PH1000010 .201
   David Carpenter, P0000000 .000
   c-B.J. Upton, PH-CF1000012 .187
a-struck out for Heyward in the 6th
b-struck out for Avilan in the 8th
c-struck out for Carpenter in the 9th
2B - Evan Gattis (19, Rosscup), Chris Johnson (33, Baker), Andrelton Simmons (25, Gregg), Paul Maholm (2, Baker)
HR - Freddie Freeman (22, Baker), Chris Johnson (11, Baker)
RBI - Freddie Freeman 3 (103), Brian McCann (57), Chris Johnson 2 (66), Andrelton Simmons 2 (54), Paul Maholm (2)
2-OUT RBI - Brian McCann (23), Chris Johnson 2 (36), Andrelton Simmons 2 (19), Paul Maholm (2)
Team LOB - 9
DP - Uggla-Simmons-Freeman
Atlanta Braves
Paul Maholm 5.1844022 4.44
Scott Downs (H,26) 0.1100000 1.91
Luis Ayala (H,10) 0.2000010 2.90
Luis Avilan (BS,2) 0.2111001 1.60
David Carpenter (W,4-1) 1000010 1.86
Craig Kimbrel 1100000 1.29
HBP - Lake (by Paul Maholm)
Pitches-Strikes - Paul Maholm 79-54, Scott Downs 8-3, Luis Ayala 9-8, Luis Avilan 15-6, David Carpenter 14-8, Craig Kimbrel 8-5
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Paul Maholm 10-4, Luis Avilan 1-1, David Carpenter 2-0, Craig Kimbrel 1-1
Batters Faced - Paul Maholm 25, Scott Downs 2, Luis Ayala 2, Luis Avilan 3, David Carpenter 3, Craig Kimbrel 3
Chicago (N.L.) Cubs
Starlin Castro, SS5211012 .241
Darwin Barney, 2B5010000 .208
Anthony Rizzo, 1B4021000 .231
Dioner Navarro, C4111003 .299
Donnie Murphy, 3B4111010 .250
Junior Lake, LF3110000 .306
Darnell McDonald, RF4010011 .239
Ryan Sweeney, CF4010003 .268
Scott Baker, P0000000 .000
   a-Brian Bogusevic, PH1000012 .271
   Zac Rosscup, P0000000 .000
   Hector Rondon, P0000000 .000
   b-Luis Valbuena, PH1011000 .221
   Justin Grimm, P0000000 .000
   Brooks Raley, P0000000 .000
   Blake Parker, P0000000 .000
   Pedro Strop, P0000000 .000
   Kevin Gregg, P0000000 .000
   c-Nate Schierholtz, PH1010000 .254
a-struck out for Baker in the 4th
b-singled for Rondon in the 6th
c-singled for Gregg in the 9th
2B - Junior Lake (16, Maholm)
HR - Starlin Castro (10, Maholm), Dioner Navarro (13, Avilan), Donnie Murphy (11, Maholm)
SH - Scott Baker (1)
RBI - Starlin Castro (42), Anthony Rizzo (76), Dioner Navarro (32), Donnie Murphy (21), Luis Valbuena (37)
2-OUT RBI - Anthony Rizzo (29), Dioner Navarro (10), Luis Valbuena (5)
Team LOB - 6
Chicago (N.L.) Cubs
Scott Baker 4455312 3.60
Zac Rosscup 1100210 2.08
Hector Rondon 1000010 5.15
Justin Grimm 0.2000010 6.09
Brooks Raley 0000000 4.50
Blake Parker 0.2000010 2.72
Pedro Strop 0.2000010 4.61
Kevin Gregg (L,2-5) 1344310 3.45
IBB - Johnson by Zac Rosscup, Freeman by Kevin Gregg
HBP - Freeman (by Justin Grimm), McCann (by Brooks Raley)
Pitches-Strikes - Scott Baker 70-47, Zac Rosscup 22-9, Hector Rondon 13-8, Justin Grimm 11-7, Brooks Raley 2-1, Blake Parker 9-5, Pedro Strop 8-6, Kevin Gregg 37-17
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Scott Baker 3-8, Hector Rondon 1-1, Pedro Strop 1-0, Kevin Gregg 1-1
Batters Faced - Scott Baker 19, Zac Rosscup 6, Hector Rondon 3, Justin Grimm 3, Brooks Raley 1, Blake Parker 2, Pedro Strop 2, Kevin Gregg 9
Game Information
Attendance - 29539
Game Time - 3:15
Temperature - 76
Umpires - Home - Paul Emmel, First Base - Chris Conroy, Second Base - Gary Darling, Third Base - Jerry Meals