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Braves clinch NL East with a little help

Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman (L) has beer poured over him as the team celebrates winning the National League East Division title after defeating the Chicago Cubs in their National League MLB baseball game in Chicago, Illinois, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/David Banks/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman (L) has beer poured over him as the team celebrates winning the National League East Division title after defeating the Chicago Cubs in their National League MLB baseball game in Chicago, Illinois, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/David Banks/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The Sports Xchange

By Jack McCarthy, The Sports Xchange

Braves 5, Cubs 2

CHICAGO — The Atlanta Braves finally clinched the National League East title thanks to a little help on Sunday.

Miami’s 4-2 victory over Washington locked down the division crown, and the Braves later avoided backing in with a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs in the finale of a three-game series at Wrigley Field.

The Braves’ magic number had been stuck at one since Friday, but Sunday’s loss by the Nationals — their closest East pursuer — officially wrapped up Atlanta’s first division championship since 2005 with seven regular-season games to play.

Braves starter Julio Teheran (13-8) worked six full innings for the win on a sunny fall afternoon with a stiff breeze blowing in from right-center. He allowed one run on four hits while striking out seven and walking none.

Cubs starter Edwin Jackson (8-17) took the loss, departing after facing one batter in the sixth. He gave up three earned runs on eight hits in six innings and struck out seven.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, shortstop Andrelton Simmons homered twice and collected three RBIs, and catcher Brian McCann went 2-for-4 and scored once.

Freeman’s one-out home run in the first drove in Jason Heyward for a 2-0 Braves lead. Freeman slammed Jackson’s first pitch to right for his 23rd homer.

Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo collected his 63rd double of the season with two out in the first and scored on Dioner Navarro’s base hit to right to make it 2-1 Braves.

Simmons made it 3-1 with a two-out solo home run into the wind. His 16th homer of the season landed in the basket lining the left field wall.

The Cubs had runners at second and third in the fifth with two out. But they came up empty when Starlin Castro struck out swinging.

Simmons slammed a two-run homer to left in the eighth that scored McCann for a 5-1 lead. Simmons’ 17th homer of the season gave him his second career multi-homer game.

Darwin Barney and Ryan Sweeney both singled with none out in the eighth off Braves reliever Luis Ayala. Castro grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Barney. Ayala was lifted for left-hander Alex Wood, who got Donnie Murphy to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The Cubs had runners at first and second in the ninth with one out against Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel and Brian Bogusevic — the potential tying run — at the plate. But Bogusevic and Junior Lake each struck out, and Braves players poured out of the dugout to begin the championship celebration.

Kimbrel earned his 49th save.

The Braves were batting in the top of the sixth when the Marlins-Nationals game wrapped up with a scoreless Washington ninth. A small group of Braves fans applauded as the final result was manually loaded on Wrigley Field’s scoreboard.

NOTES: Jackson’s 30th start on Sunday made him one of five active pitchers with 30-plus starts over the past seven seasons. … Castro appeared in his 600th Major League game Teammate Ryan Sweeney came into the game two away from that milestone. … Barney enters the season’s final week with just four errors and a .993 fielding average, best among NL second basemen. … The Cubs send RHP Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.42 ERA) against the Pirates Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.35) on Monday to open the season’s final home series. … Atlanta has reached the postseason twice since winning the 2005 division title, with wild card appearances in 2010 and 2012. … The Braves have had 27 seasons with 90-plus victories in franchise history and 16 in the last 23 years. …Chris Johnson came into Sunday atop the National League batting race with a .332 average and second overall in the big leagues but went 0-for-4. … Braves LHP Mike Minor goes against Brewers RHP Marco Estrada (6-4, 4.26 ERA) in the first of three home games against Milwaukee starting Monday.

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