Braves beat Marlins 2-1, clinch 5th straight NL East title

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins
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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.

TRAINERS ROOM

Marlins: Placed RHP Edward Cabrera on the 15-day IL with a right ankle sprain.

UP NEXT

Neither team has announced their starters for Wednesday’s series finale.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.