Atlanta Braves clinch fifth straight NL East title with win over Miami Marlins

MIAMI — Ronald Acuna Jr. and the Atlanta Braves were well behind their slow start and needed just one more win to complete an impressive turnaround.

They earned it on Tuesday night by beating the Miami Marlins 2-1 to claim their fifth straight National League East title and capping the first leg of a trek they hope will take them to a second straight World Series crown.

Afterward, they popped champagne and puffed cigars and basked in their performance.

“It’s hard to win one,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “Winning five is very special. It’s a credit to our organization.”

William Contreras clinched the go-ahead run with an infield single in the fifth inning, and the Atlanta pitching team put on a solid performance.

With the win, Atlanta also earned a first-round bye as the NL’s No. 2 seed behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Braves were 10½ games behind the New York Mets in early June and lost four of five to New York in early August. But they were on familiar ground. Atlanta intermittently went 30-35 last season before winning the World Series.

“To keep going and the consistency these guys have shown all year,” Snitker said. “Coming into work every day worrying about today. They didn’t catch up with the fact that we’re behind.”

Acuna, whose 2021 season ended when he tore his cruciate ligament at the same ballpark, hit a two-out singles in the second, scoring Orlando Arcia and giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.

“I feel so much happiness and joy,” Acuna said. He couldn’t get through his post-game interview without teammates dousing him. “I couldn’t experience that last year because of my injury. I am so happy to be a part of this club.”

The Braves swept the Mets over the weekend to take the division lead and entered the Marlins series that needed a win or a Mets loss to capture the division crown.

The Mets defeated the Washington Nationals in Tuesday’s doubleheader but had to settle for a wildcard berth.

Kenley Jansen recorded his 41st save for the Braves and earned the win with a perfect ninth save.

Starter Jake Odorizzi (6-6), coming to Atlanta at the close, allowed a run in five innings. He struck out six and gave up just two hits, including a home run by Jesus Sanchez in the fourth.

“It’s great to be a part of it,” said Odorizzi. “Each of them is special. I was only here two months out of that, but that doesn’t make it any less special. It’s pretty awesome.”

Reliever AJ Minter escaped Miami’s threat in the eighth. Jon Berti hit a one-out double and stole 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, showed up to end the inning.

“We were trying to kick out our best guys today and extend this thing,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “We got out of some blocks and stayed in the game. We just couldn’t get the last goal.”

The Braves missed many chances at plate to extend their lead, but their pitchers held the Marlins to four hits.

Collin McHugh and Raisel Iglesias had scoreless innings in games six and seven to relieve Odorizzi.

In the fourth, Sanchez hit Odorizzi’s first throw over the wall in right field to level the game.

Miami starter Braxton Garrett (3-7) was pulled to fifth after Contreras hit a two-out infield single that Travis d’Arnaud scored and allowed Atlanta to retake the lead.

Contreras had two hits and an RBI.

Garrett allowed six hits and two runs, and he walked five and batted seven.

The Braves, a year after winning their first World Series title since 1995, are playoff-bound without All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, who signed as a free agent with the Dodgers in March.

Atlanta also has 100 wins (101-61) for the first time since 2003. The Braves finished the regular season 88-73 last year. Atlanta Braves clinch fifth straight NL East title with win over Miami Marlins

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