Braves clinch first division title since 2005
The Atlanta Braves' long-awaited quest for a division title officially came to pass on Sunday afternoon, after the Miami Marlins knocked off the Nationals in Washington, 4-2.
With the Nationals' loss, the Braves' magic number for claiming the National League East crown dropped to zero, clinching Atlanta's berth in the MLB playoffs and the franchise's first division title since 2005.
With its substantial division lead through July and August, Atlanta was projected to be the first team to clinch a spot in the playoffs this season. However, those plans were delayed by the Nationals' late-season tear — Washington has posted a 15-5 September record — and the Braves' offensive slump following an injury to standout outfielder Jason Heyward. Instead, the Braves become the third team to clinch a playoff berth, following the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox.
The best news for the Braves, who were locked in a three-game series finale in Chicago when they officially clinched, is that at 91-63 they are still among the favorites to capture home-field advantage leading up to the World Series. That's especially important for the Braves, who are an MLB-best 52-22 at home and just 39-41 on the road this season. At this juncture, though, the Braves, Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are all viable candidates for the NL's No. 1 playoff seed.
The Braves, who launched the 2013 campaign with a 12-1 start, presided over a double-digit lead in the NL East from July 30-Sept. 15. For July and August, the club went on a 14-game winning streak (and 19-4 tear over 23 games), essentially clinching a title that seemed largely academic around Memorial Day.
Atlanta will open the National League Divisional Series round at home on Oct. 3-4, taking on the survivor of the one-game wild card round.
The Braves are searching for their first World Series title since 1995.