MIAMI – William Contreras drove in the go-ahead run with an infield single in the fifth and the Atlanta Braves clinched their fifth consecutive NL East title by defeating the Miami Marlins 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Atlanta, the defending World Series champion, earned a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in the NL, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Braves were 10 1/2 games behind the New York Mets at the start of June and lost four of five to New York in early August. After sweeping the Mets over the weekend to take the division lead, Atlanta entered the series needing a win or a Mets loss to clinch the division crown.
The Marlins delayed Atlanta’s celebration Monday with a 4-0 win. And the Mets beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 Tuesday evening in the first game of a doubleheader, leaving Atlanta in control of its fate in front of a large Braves crowd at loanDepot Park.
Kenley Jansen recorded his 41st save, working a perfect ninth to seal the win.
Starter Jake Odorizzi (6-6) allowed one run in five innings. He struck out six, and gave up only two hits, including a home run by Jesus Sanchez in the fourth.
Reliever A.J. Minter escaped Miami’s threat in the eighth. Jon Berti hit a one-out double then advanced to third after stealing his 41st base of the season. Bryan De La Cruz and Avisail Garcia walked to load the bases, but Nick Fortes, pinch hitting for Sanchez, popped out to end the inning.
The Braves did not take advantage of many chances at the plate to stretch their lead, but their pitchers held the Marlins to four hits.
Collin McHugh and Raisel Iglesias pitched scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh in relief of Odorizzi.
Ronald Acuna Jr hit a two-out single in the top of the second, scoring Orlando Arcia and giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, Sanchez sent Odorizzi’s first pitch over the right field wall to tie the game.
Miami starter Braxton Garrett (3-7) was pulled in the fifth after Contreras hit a two-out infield single, which scored Travis d'Arnaud and allowed Atlanta to retake the lead. Contreras had two hits and an RBI.
Garrett allowed six hits, two runs, walked five and struck out seven.
The Braves, one year after winning their first World Series title since 1995, are playoff bound without All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, who signed with the Dodgers in March as a free agent.
Atlanta also has 100 wins for the first time since 2003 (101-61). The Braves finished 88-73 in the regular season last year.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Michael Harris II notched Atlanta’s first sacrifice bunt of the season in the fourth inning to advance Arcia to second and Contreras to third.
As 160 games went by, it looked like the Braves might be the first team in MLB history to complete a full season without bunting.
The Braves did not score off it, even after the Marlins intentionally walked Acuna in the next at bat to load the bases. Dansby Swanson struck out to end the inning.
ALCANTARA WINS MARLINS MVP
Pitcher Sandy Alcantara was named Miami’s Most Valuable Player, as voted by members of the South Florida chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Alcantara, who has been in Cy Young contention all season, leads the majors with 228 2/3 innings and has pitched six complete games.
BRAVE OF THE YEAR
Third baseman Austin Riley is the repeat winner of Brave of the Year in voting by the Atlanta Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, edging out shortstop Dansby Swanson and rookie center fielder Michael Harris II.
Riley is the eighth player to be named Brave of the Year in consecutive seasons since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966. The others are Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, Terry Pendleton, Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman.
Marlins: Placed RHP Edward Cabrera on the 15-day IL with a right ankle sprain.
Neither team has announced their starters for Wednesday’s series finale.