Braves clinch 1st NL East crown since 2013, top Phillies 53

Freeman stood soaked in champagne with music blaring and his teammates jamming
in celebration.This was just how the longtime star first baseman envisioned it
when the Atlanta Braves began spring training seven months ago.You could tell
after the first week of workouts that we had the talent to do something special,
Freeman said. Obviously we still needed to put it together. But this is what
happens. You win the division after three straight 90-loss seasons. The Braves
capped a most surprising season by clinching their first NL East crown since
2013, with Mike Foltynewicz taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday
in a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.A year after going 70-92, manager
Brian Snitker and his Baby Braves surged back into the playoffs. A loud crowd at
SunTrust Park joined the party when rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. caught a flyball for
the final out, setting off another round of the Tomahawk Chop and a big
celebration on the field.When we started this series, we knew it was within our
grasp, Snitker said. We knew we couldnt lose track of today. I know Im redundant
saying that all the time, but I felt we just needed to stay current and worry
about today game. These guys have done an unbelievable job of that this year.The
Braves will make their first postseason appearance since 2013 on Oct. 4 in the
NL Division Series. It has not yet been determined who or where the youth-filled
club will play in the best-of-five round Luke Jackson
. Atlanta won its 18th division title, tying the New York Yankees for
the most in the majors since division play began in 1969.The Braves won their
fourth straight game and beat second-place Philadelphia for the third day in a
row Mike Lum
. The Phillies also startled a lot of fans this year and led the
division in early August, but faded while going 6-14 this month.Foltynewicz
tipped his cap to a standing ovation as he left with runners on first and second
in the eighth with a 4-0 lead.Jesse Biddle relieved, walked the first batter he
faced and gave up two runs on Cesar Hernandez bases-loaded single. Brad Brach
allowed Rhys Hoskins RBI single before Jonny Venters escaped the jam on a
lineout and a grounder.Kurt Suzuki added an RBI single to make it 5-3 in the
eighth off Seranthony Dominguez, the seventh pitcher used by Philadelphia.Arodys
Vizcaino, in his first save situation since June 17, closed out the ninth for
his 16th save in 18 chances, getting Wilson Ramos to ground out, striking out
Roman Quinn and retiring Maikel Franco on a flyball to Acuna in left
starter Jake Arrieta lasted two innings, allowing four runs, four hits and three
walks in the shortest outing of his nine-year career.I didnt do my job today,
Arrieta said. Youve got tip your cap. They won the division. They really did.
This wasnt something that started today, obviously. Individually, the last month
I havent been very good, and we didnt take care of business. We just didnt get
the job done. They did.Atlanta led 2-0 in the first when Arrieta walked three of
his first four batters, and Johan Camargo hit a two-run single.Freeman hit a
two-run single in the second to make it 4-0. Freeman, one of two current Braves
who played on the 2013 division-winning teamalong with pitcher Julio Teheran is
hitting .389 over his last 14 games.When Franco hit that ball, I put my hands up
right away, Freeman said. It means everything. This is goal No. 1. It
celebration No. 1. Weve still got three more weve got to do. Weve got 11 wins to
get in October. Weve still got to take care of business, but, man, is this a
great feeling.Foltynewicz didnt permit a hit until Odubel Herrera singled to
begin the seventh. Franco singled with one out in the eighth.The 26-year-old
Foltynewicz has matured in his third full season, earning his first All-Star
appearance and posting a 2.88 ERA that almost two full runs lower than his
career average entering the year.We knew we had something special since day one,
he said. Weve been telling you guys that all year, but to be able to do it and
pull it off is pretty special. They got four runs for me today,
which was a good confidence builder to go out there and be aggressive.BIG
SURPRIS EAtlanta was not projected to contend when the season began. It was
coming off three straight 90-loss seasons, had no proven ace and was counting on
several young position players to complement Freeman, the lone big bat in the
lineup.The team had been embarrassed off the field with former general manager
John Coppolella banned from baseball in a signing scandal, but Atlanta moved
into first place on May 2 and never trailed in the division race after a 9-1 win
over Miami on Aug. 13.Fueled by young budding stars like Acuna, second baseman
Ozzie Albies and third baseman Camargo, the Braves won the NL East with an
8½-game lead.New GM Alex Anthopolous watched his team arrive earlier than he
expected. When spring training began, he didnt think the team would be a serious
contender until next year.No, Id lying through my teeth if I thought that,
Anthopolous said. I thought we have a really talented team with high draft
picks. We have the potential to be really good and have a chance to get better.
We certainly exceeded all those things. Snit, the coaches, the players theyre
the ones who deserve all the credit for the year we put together.BIG
FADE Philadelphia faltered down the stretch under first-year manager Gabe Kapler.
After winning on Aug. 5, the Phillies were 1½ games ahead in the division and 15
games over .500. They have since gone 15-28.I think this is a really important
moment to reflect back to the beginning of the season and really the offseason,
Kapler said. If we said that we were going to be playing a meaningful game on
Sept. 22, I think a lot of people wouldve said that not a reasonable thought.On
the flip side, this is ultimately a stain. This hurts, but Im ultimately proud
of the guys for putting us in this position and to be fighting in Atlanta kind
of the season on the line today.ROUGH DAY Arrieta lasted 2 1 3 innings in a loss
for the Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh in his previous shortest outing Sept. 4,
2017. The Phillies dropped to 14-16 in his starts as Arrieta posted a 6.18 ERA
and went 1-4 over his last eight outings.
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