Atlanta heads into playoffs with win
by Charles Odum
Associated Press Sports Writer
September 30, 2013 12:25 AM | 909 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Utility player Elliot Johnson drove in five runs Sunday as the Braves beat the Phillies and closed the regular season with their highest win total since 2004. 
<BR>Associated Press photo
Utility player Elliot Johnson drove in five runs Sunday as the Braves beat the Phillies and closed the regular season with their highest win total since 2004.
Associated Press photo
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ATLANTA — The Braves finished off the regular season with their 96th win, their most in nine years.

They’d like 11 more victories.

“Now the fun begins,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Evan Gattis had a two-run homer among his three hits, Elliot Johnson drove in five runs and NL East champion Atlanta beat the Philadelphia Phillies 12-5 on Sunday.

The Braves won their first division title since 2005. They will have home-field advantage against the Dodgers in the NL division series, which begins Thursday at Turner Field.

“You get to create a whole new identity in the postseason,” Johnson said. “Hopefully it goes our way.”

Atlanta (96-66) finished with its best record since also winning 96 games in 2004.

“I’m proud of a good season — 30 games over .500, 96 wins,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a hell of an accomplishment for our club.”

The Braves needed St. Louis to lose for a shot a home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. But the Cardinals beat the Cubs 4-0 to lock up the top spot.

Erik Kratz hit a three-run homer for the Phillies, who trailed 5-0 after three innings.

Philadelphia (73-89) finished fourth in the NL East with its worst record and finish since 2000, when it was in last place at 65-97.

The Phillies watched after the game as Braves players gathered for a photo around a 2013 sign that was placed on a stand in front of the mound.

“This isn’t the situation that you envisioned going into spring training,” said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who had two hits to finish at .284.

“If there is a bright spot, it gives us an opportunity to get to work a little bit sooner. We can start improving next week.”

Johnson had a two-run triple in the sixth and a two-run single in the eighth while setting his career high with five RBIs. He started at third base as Chris Johnson was given a day off to rest his sore right shoulder.

Braves catcher Gerald Laird had four hits and scored four runs. Jose Constanza drove in two runs with a pinch-hit single in the fifth after the Phillies cut the lead to 5-4.

After five straight first-place finishes, the Phillies fell to 81-81 last season. The decline continued this season, and manager Charlie Manuel was fired on Aug 16.

The Phillies were 20-22 under Manuel’s replacement, Ryne Sandberg, who was given a three-year contract on Sept. 22.

Gattis and Julio Teheran (14-8) were the Braves’ top rookies this season. Teheran allowed four runs on six hits in five innings.

Gattis finished second among NL rookies with 21 homers, behind San Diego’s Jedd Gyorko. He leads all rookies in the majors with 65 RBIs.

Gattis has started at catcher, left field and first base and is expected to start in left field in the playoffs if catcher Brian McCann returns from an adductor injury, as expected.

“I’m happy with my year,” Gattis said. “I feel like I’ve got a whole bunch I can do better. I’m not that happy, if it makes any sense.”

McCann has not played since Thursday.

“I fully expect him to be ready to go,” Gonzalez said.

Freddie Freeman had two hits, including a run-scoring single in the Braves’ three-run first. For the season he hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBIs.

Zach Miner (0-2), who began his career in the Braves’ organization, gave up five runs on seven hits and three in only 2 1/3 innings. Six Phillies pitchers combined for nine walks.

Phillies third baseman Cody Asche needed seven stitches after leaving the game with a cut chin in the first inning. He was hurt when a throw from left fielder Domonic Brown bounced and hit his chin as Jason Heyward was sliding into third base.

Freddy Galvis replaced Asche.

Phillies rookie right-hander Tyler Cloyd, who made 11 starts, gave up two runs on three hits in the eighth in only his second relief appearance.

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth.

NOTES: The Braves will be off today before having workouts Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for their NL division series. ... Gonzalez said the decision to start Elliot Johnson had nothing to do with Chris Johnson’s dugout altercation with first base coach Terry Pendleton after Saturday night’s loss. Chris Johnson said he apologized to Pendleton for throwing his helmet, which he said bounced and hit Pendleton. Pendleton then grabbed Johnson’s jersey with two hands and the two exchanged words. ... The Braves’ season attendance was 2,548,679, their top total since 2007. Sunday’s turnout was 42,194. ... Laird’s four hits matched his career high.

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