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Atlanta at Chicago

Scoreboard
Atlanta (92-63) «2001000205120
Chi. Cubs (65-91)100000010281

Newly-crowned NL East champ Braves handle Cubs

CBSSports.com wire reports
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CHICAGO -- The title was right there, across the front of the soaked gray T-shirts that each of the Atlanta Braves wore.

"WE OWN THE EAST," it read.

The Braves wrapped up the NL East crown, and then rode two homers by Andrelton Simmons to a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs that touched off a wild party in the cramped visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field.

The game was in the sixth inning when Washington lost 4-2 to Miami, giving the Braves their first division championship in eight years. There were a few high-fives in Atlanta's dugout when the Marlins won, and a couple of Braves fans did the tomahawk chop in the stands.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez high-fived a fan as he made his way to the dugout after a lineup change, and the celebration really picked up when Craig Kimbrel finished for his major league-best 49th save. The Braves poured out of the dugout and bullpen and jumped in a circle near the mound at the 99-year-old ballpark.

"What a great feeling," Gonzalez said. "It really is a great feeling to realize we've played 150-some games to get to this point. We knew early on that the Nationals had lost but we still wanted to be able to celebrate and come out with a win. And we did."

The Braves sprayed bubbly and doused each other with beer in the clubhouse. Cigars were passed around, and the smoke quickly filled the small room. A couple of players took a quick break to check on their fantasy football teams, and then re-joined the party.

"This is only one celebration of four, hopefully," slugger Freddie Freeman said.

Simmons hit a solo drive in the fourth and a two-run shot in the eighth, giving him 17 homers on the year.

Simmons' second career multihomer game was more than enough run support for Julio Teheran (13-8), who struck out seven over six innings of one-run ball.

The Cubs had a chance to tie it when they put runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth, but Teheran managed to escape the jam despite a solid at-bat by Starlin Castro. Teheran needed 11 pitches to get Castro for a swinging strikeout, preserving Atlanta's 3-1 lead.

"We have a lot of close games and we just haven't been able to come back or rally at home," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

Freeman also hit a two-run homer for the Braves, who have won three of four. Freeman went got three hits and is batting .356 (26 for 73) with six homers and 17 RBI in his last 20 games.

Freeman went deep in the first against Edwin Jackson (8-17), who allowed three runs and eight hits in six-plus innings. The right-hander leads the majors with 17 losses in his first season with the Cubs.

"I kind of feel like I got beat with two pitches," Jackson said, "moreso the slider 1-2 (to Simmons) than the fastball by Freeman."

Atlanta is headed to the playoffs for the second straight year and third time in four seasons. But it's the first division title for the Braves since 2005, when they won 90 games and then lost to Houston in the division series.

The Braves were the NL's top wild card a year ago, trying to make one more playoff run for Chipper Jones in the third baseman's final season. Those hopes were quickly dashed when they committed three errors in a 6-3 home loss to St. Louis in their only game of the 2012 postseason.

"We know last year what happened," Simmons said. "We played pretty good but not good enough and we had to deal with a one-game playoff thing. It's definitely a different feeling.

"Now we know we've got some time, we've got some games to work with. We've got a little bit of time to rest our players."

The only question now is home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs, with Atlanta, Los Angeles and St. Louis in the mix for the league's best record.

It's quite the accomplishment for Gonzalez and the Braves, who were beset by injuries for much of the year. Veteran catcher Brian McCann missed the first month following offseason shoulder surgery. The outfield of Jason Heyward and brothers Justin and B.J. Upton all missed time. Second baseman Dan Uggla had eye surgery and pitcher Tim Hudson broke his right ankle in July, shelving the right-hander for the rest of the season.

Atlanta kept going the way it often does -- with outstanding pitching. Teheran, Mike Minor and Kris Medlen helped anchor the rotation, while Kimbrel led the Braves' shutdown bullpen, which overcame injuries to left-handers Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty to once again be among the majors' best relief corps.

Of course, the lineup had its share of key performances. Freeman blossomed into one of the majors' best first basemen, unheralded rookie Evan Gattis stepped up and Chris Johnson proved to be a more than adequate replacement for Jones at third. The free-swinging Braves lead the NL with 177 homers and are among the league leaders in strikeouts as well.

Long after it was over, Gonzalez took his cigar out to the field and took some pictures of the scoreboard. The sprinklers came on as he walked back to the dugout, but he didn't seem to mind one bit.

It was quite a fun day.

"You want to clinch at home in front of your fans, but if you can't I think clinching in one of these stadiums -- Wrigley or Fenway -- one of those old traditional-type ballparks would be second-best," Gonzalez said.

Notes

The Braves went 5-1 against the Cubs this season ... Minor (13-7, 3.19 ERA) is slated to face Milwaukee RHP Marco Estrada (6-4, 4.26 ERA) when the Braves return home to open a three-game series against the Brewers on Monday. ... Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.42 ERA) faces Pirates RHP Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.35 ERA) on Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Wrigley.

 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
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Brian McCann and Craig Kimbrel embrace their division championship after securing a win at Wrigley over the Cubs.  (USATSI)
Brian McCann and Craig Kimbrel embrace their division championship after securing a win at Wrigley over the Cubs. (USATSI)

Players of the Game
Atlanta

A. Simmons
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 2
RBI 3
Chicago

D. Navarro
AB 4
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 1
 
Atlanta Braves
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Jason Heyward, CF5110020 .251
Justin Upton, RF-LF5020011 .260
Freddie Freeman, 1B5132012 .314
Chris Johnson, 3B4000022 .329
   Paul Janish, 3B1000001 .184
Brian McCann, C4120020 .261
Evan Gattis, LF3000021 .233
   Jordan Schafer, RF1000011 .251
Andrelton Simmons, SS4223000 .246
Elliot Johnson, 2B3010101 .203
Julio Teheran, P2000001 .214
   a-Jose Constanza, PH1010000 .207
   Luis Avilan, P0000000 .000
   b-Reed Johnson, PH1000011 .256
   Luis Ayala, P0000000 .000
   Alex Wood, P0000000 .000
   Craig Kimbrel, P0000000 .000
Totals395125112  
a-singled for Teheran in the 7th
b-struck out for Avilan in the 8th
Batting
HR - Freddie Freeman (23, Jackson), Andrelton Simmons 2 (17, Jackson)
RBI - Freddie Freeman 2 (105), Andrelton Simmons 3 (57)
2-OUT RBI - Andrelton Simmons 3 (22)
CS - Jose Constanza (3, 2nd base by Russell/Navarro)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Janish-Johnson-Freeman
Atlanta Braves
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Julio Teheran (W,13-8) 6411070 3.09
Luis Avilan (H,26) 1000010 1.57
Luis Ayala 0.1211000 3.16
Alex Wood (H,1) 0.2000000 3.21
Craig Kimbrel (S,49) 1200030 1.27
Pitches-Strikes - Julio Teheran 91-67, Luis Avilan 16-10, Luis Ayala 15-10, Alex Wood 2-2, Craig Kimbrel 18-14
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Julio Teheran 6-5, Luis Avilan 2-0, Luis Ayala 1-0, Alex Wood 1-0
Batters Faced - Julio Teheran 22, Luis Avilan 3, Luis Ayala 3, Alex Wood 1, Craig Kimbrel 5
Chicago (N.L.) Cubs
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Starlin Castro, SS4001012 .241
Luis Valbuena, 3B3000010 .221
   a-Donnie Murphy, PH-3B1000001 .254
Anthony Rizzo, 1B4110020 .231
Dioner Navarro, C4021000 .303
Nate Schierholtz, RF4010001 .252
Brian Bogusevic, CF4010012 .280
Junior Lake, LF4000043 .299
Darwin Barney, 2B3120010 .209
Edwin Jackson, P1000010 .077
   James Russell, P0000000 .000
   Blake Parker, P0000000 .000
   Brooks Raley, P0000000 .000
   b-Ryan Sweeney, PH1010000 .272
   Hector Rondon, P0000000 .000
Totals33282011  
a-grounded into a double play for Valbuena in the 8th
b-singled for Raley in the 8th
Batting
2B - Anthony Rizzo (39, Teheran)
SH - Edwin Jackson (4)
RBI - Starlin Castro (43), Dioner Navarro (34)
2-OUT RBI - Dioner Navarro (11)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Navarro-Castro
E - Starlin Castro (20, Misplayed grounder)
Chicago (N.L.) Cubs
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Edwin Jackson (L,8-17) 6833062 4.74
James Russell 0.2000010 3.59
Blake Parker 0100000 2.72
Brooks Raley 1.1222131 5.79
Hector Rondon 1100020 5.05
WP - Edwin Jackson (14)
Pitches-Strikes - Edwin Jackson 109-70, James Russell 6-3, Blake Parker 1-1, Brooks Raley 35-22, Hector Rondon 12-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Edwin Jackson 10-3, Brooks Raley 1-0
Batters Faced - Edwin Jackson 27, James Russell 1, Blake Parker 1, Brooks Raley 7, Hector Rondon 4
Game Information
Attendance - 30515
Game Time - 3:18
Temperature - 63
Umpires - Home - Gary Darling, First Base - Jerry Meals, Second Base - Paul Emmel, Third Base - Chris Conroy