Braves beat Marlins and clinch top wild card spot – updated

No need to break out the bubbly on Wednesday night, but the Braves clinched home-field advantage in a potential wild card game and continued trying to close the gap on the Nationals.

The Braves backed up their playoff-berth clinching victory in the series opener with a 3-0 win Wednesday night over the Marlins. After the Cardinals lost in Houston, the Braves were assured of finishing as the top National League wild card team and would host a one-game playoff on Oct. 5.

But for Paul Maholm and the Braves, their focus was trying to keep pace with the Nationals, who won Wednesday and maintained a four-game lead in the NL East with seven games to play.

Maholm dominated the Marlins with 6 2/3 innings of shutout work in what he treated as a test run for the playoffs.

“Obviously I’ve never been in this position in my career,” said Maholm, who played his first seven seasons with the Pirates and first four months this season with the Cubs. “I tried to do as much as I could to treat it like a playoff game, to where I’m going to go out there and I’m going to win the game and try and set the tone. The defense made some plays and obviously putting up some runs helps.”

Martin Prado, the instigator of the walk-off dirt bath Tuesday night after Freddie Freeman’s heroics, was due for a little celebration of his own. He drove in the Braves’ first two runs on a home run and an RBI single.

He gave Maholm a 1-0 lead with a first inning solo shot off Josh Johnson which gave Maholm time to find a rhythm. He was pitching on seven day’s rest since the Braves flip-flopped him with Kris Medlen so that Medlen could pitch in a potential wild card playoff.

“Going out for the third I felt like I found my rhythm and was able to pretty much throw every pitch for a strike,” Maholm said.

The result was some of his finest work as a Brave since his complete game shutout in New York on Aug. 10. He gave up only five hits – all singles – walked none and struck out six. He retired 13 in a row before giving up a single to Gil Velazquez with two outs in the seventh. It was on his 104th pitch so manager Fredi Gonzalez came for the ball.

Chad Durbin, Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel finished off the Marlins from there. Kimbrel picked up his 40th save to match Jason Motte for the National League lead. He did it by striking out four batters, after one reached on a wild pitch. The feat was something only four Braves have done since 1977, along with Mark Wohlers (1995), Paul Assenmacher (1989) and Phil Niekro (1977).

By winning the first two against the Marlins, the Braves assured themselves of a fourth consecutive series victory since getting swept in Milwaukee. The surging Braves have won nine of their past 11 to move to 16-7 in September.

In addition to hitting his 10th home run of the season, Prado took advantage of Jose Constanza’s speed to drive in his second run when Constanza scored from second on his single to shallow right field. Constanza went barreling head first into home plate and nearly went face-first into the dirt. But it was a fitting RBI for Prado, who said he smothered Freeman with dirt after his walk-off Tuesday because he didn’t have any shaving cream handy.

“When we went back out there and I saw (Constanza) had dirt (on his shoulder),” Prado said. “I was like ‘You dove like (to) a bag?’…But that’s the way we’re playing. Everybody is contributing. Everybody is playing hard, and that’s all that matters.”

The Braves drew four walks in the first three innings against Johnson – one on them intentional – but cashed in only one of them after both Dan Uggla and Brian McCann struck out with the bases loaded in the third inning. But Uggla and McCann teamed up for an improbable double steal in the sixth that got the Braves another run on a suicide squeeze play.

Maholm couldn’t get his bat on a pitch up and away but the ball bounced off catcher John Buck’s glove as a charging Uggla scored from third. Uggla was credited with a steal of home, the Braves’ first since Jason Heyward did it on July 28, 2010.

Heyward reached a milestone of his own. He stole second base in the first inning to become the Braves first 20-steal 20-home run man since Andruw Jones in 2000.

64 comments Add your comment

Itcouldbeworse

September 26th, 2012
9:51 pm

Wow fast recap

Tim C

September 26th, 2012
10:05 pm

H3M looks to be a formidable rotation to me. (Hudson, Medlin, Minor Maholm)

Ken Stallings

September 26th, 2012
10:05 pm

Given the tie-breaker being in the Braves’ favor, the actual magic number is now just one for home field Wild Card. And, right now the Cards are trailing the Astros 2-0 going to the top of the eighth inning. So, perhaps the Astros make an honorable appearance tonight and help the Braves wrap that next goal up tonight!

The Phillies went down 5-0 but have clawed back to make it 5-4 in the top of the ninth but the Nats threaten to tally one more run.

Braves have certainly done an about face compared to last September. They are truly sprinting to the finish line this year. Maholm pitched a great game — can’t do better than a shutout! Kimbrel was light’s out again, striking out four in a single inning (due to the wild pitch and McCann being unable to throw the runner out at first).

Ken Stallings

September 26th, 2012
10:08 pm

Frankly, looking at the other NL playoff teams, I think the Braves have the best starting four (and that’s all you’ll need in postseason) and the best bullpen. The Reds have an excellent bullpen also, but I don’t think it’s as good as Atlanta’s. The Nats had as good a rotation until they sat Strasburg.

The Cards have the best lineup of hitters, but I don’t think the Braves are that far behind. If Uggla and McCann swing well, then the Braves are no slouches in that area also.

Defensively, I think the Braves are as solid as any NL team in postseason.

Ken Stallings

September 26th, 2012
10:14 pm

Oh bummer! Nats scored two in the top of the ninth to take a 7-4 lead and are still batting with two outs.

Cards are threatening to score in the top of the eighth against the Astros.

The Finn

September 26th, 2012
10:17 pm

Has anyone ever struck out five in an inning?

ChipperisGod

September 26th, 2012
10:18 pm

Congrats to J-Hey. Good win, would have liked to cash in on those bases loaded attempts but Uggla and Mac couldn’t get the job done. Hope Mac’s ok, looked like he really tweaked something there in his last at bat.

Maholm looked fantastic and got better as the game went along. Prado was a beast tonight and carried us offensively. Gotta swing the bats big tomorrow with Hanson pitching. Hopefully Tommy has a better start tomorrow than he has over the last few months.

Ken Stallings

September 26th, 2012
10:20 pm

Yeeh! Make it 8-4 Nats over Phillies now as the wheels came off for the Phils!

Ken Stallings

September 26th, 2012
10:27 pm

The Astros did themselves proud! They wriggled off the hook and ended up preserving their 2-0 lead by stranding two runners on base. We go to the bottom of the eighth with the ‘Stros still leading 2-0!

Ken Stallings

September 26th, 2012
10:30 pm

Meanwhle, the Fightin’ Phils got bounced by the Nats, losing the game 8-4. So, no help there tonight! Nats magic number over the Braves is now at 4 with 7 games to play.

ChipperisGod

September 26th, 2012
10:30 pm

CARROL! Any update on Mac? Is he ok? Sorry to yell at you in all caps, I am just worried about him.

Yeah, hopes were dashed there, Ken Stallings. Thought the Phils had a chance. Why did they not use Pap in the ninth? It befuddles me.

Remember Charlie last year. We’re not resting our players, we have a responsibility if the postseason is on the line to play our best players. Well Charlie you could have at least kept it to a one run game and kept your season alive if you lived by what you said by putting your closer in the ninth. I don’t get it.

Ken Stallings

September 26th, 2012
10:31 pm

Astros failed to score and we go to the top of the ninth.

Ken Stallings

September 26th, 2012
10:36 pm

Braves has clinched the home field Wild Card as the Astros have beaten the Cardinals 2-0!

Only one more regular season target left for the Braves — an immortal chase-down of the Nationals for the NL East. All other goals are reached.

steve

September 26th, 2012
11:00 pm

as mentioned braves clinch home field by virtue of cardinals loss hope fw will rest some players as all regulars in line up should have extras days off

Quack Quack

September 26th, 2012
11:00 pm

Another notch in the bedpost. Lets keep rolling Bravos. Prado is “da man.”

GO BRAVES!!!

wreckmaniac

September 26th, 2012
11:14 pm

The Finn: Actually, Finn, the record for strikeouts in a game is 6. The Toledo Mud Hens on May 9, 1884, loaded the bases against the Pittsburgh Aristocrats. The Aristocrats pitcher, Dudley McTavish, had already stuck out 2 batters. The next batter, Oscar Benevides, stuck out but got to 1st base on a passed ball which the catcher, Avery Slocum, could not recover in time. The next batter, William Coolidge, stuck out but complained to the umpire that a gnat had flown into his eye and was allowed another pitch which he lined into left field. The next batter stuck out but the pitch popped straight up out of Slocum’s mitt and was hit by the batter into center field for a double. Finally strike three was called on the final batter, Henry Minoso, and the inning ended.

Jay

September 26th, 2012
11:32 pm

FOUR strikeouts?? Wow!!! Kimbrel for Cy Young.

Dum-Bass

September 26th, 2012
11:53 pm

That sure is a “cheap and risky” way to pad your strikeout totals! (OK lighten up, I’m kidding)

John Leonard

September 27th, 2012
12:02 am

With Mac catching,Kimbrel someday may strike out 6 in a inning.

Braveone

September 27th, 2012
12:14 am

Has any MLB team ever had a 4 strikeout inning and a steal of home in the same game?

Buzz 2011

September 27th, 2012
12:16 am

Sorry, Nats win big…Did Uggs bust 4 hits tonight?

Davey Sprocket

September 27th, 2012
1:28 am

Ken – Your analysis makes it hard to believe ANYONE coul beat the braves. Are you 15 years old? Best Bullpen. Best lieup after Cincy..Best rotation (now that the Nationals sat Strasburg). Top defense. IF Uggla and McCann hit… blah, blah, blah.. Sheesh.
Facts are that Washington has three starters better than the Braves three, even without Strasburg. You need three in a short series, not 4. The Nats have outscored the Braves, after being way behind early in the year due to injuries. They still have a couple of guys nicked up, but hope to have them ready come playoff time. Defensively the Nats get to more balls, and are better as a team. Nats bullpen is very strong as well, loaded with braves kryptonite (lefties) and the re-emergence of Drew Storen as closer (43 saves last year), after his return from elbow surgery.
Ig you think that the braves last-in-the-league hitting with RISP will suddenly just turn around, well, keep dreaming. Bourn hits like Uggla since the AS break, and plenty of guys strike out and popup with RISP – witness tonight. Braves are playing AAA-type teams, who have guys injured (Stanton, in particular) and actuall yshould beat them. Took a blown save yesterday, or this jibba-jabba about the division title would already be over.
Medlen will be used in the WC game, and if they win it, the rotation will be behind the curve in teh Division series. Too bad ole Chipster cannot go out a winner, eh?

Train Wreck Bystander

September 27th, 2012
1:30 am

Sure is nice to see this team getting hot at the right time.

Same Ole, negative dumbazz comments

September 27th, 2012
5:06 am

Davey Sprocket@1:28………..Brilliant observation Davey.
I really enjoy those negative comments, such as the one that you have made.
You must be some kind of a genius.

Frankie

September 27th, 2012
7:12 am

Ole Davey Sprocket might be negative but issues are there nonetheless. Team’s inability to score with RISP is a big issue. Also, find it difficult to think that this team will somehow turn it around and offensively. Bourn is going to have a lot say to how far the team goes. If he continues to struggle, going to be really difficult.

Never liked this lineup as constructed and really wish Prado was dropped to 5th so he can have opportunities to drive the ball more. Need a Cody Ross like performance from somebody in the playoffs(Heyward, Freeman, ?). We can win a NLDS with great pitching and just enough offense, to get to the Series…. well might be exposed offensively and odds against.

Ekim56

September 27th, 2012
7:20 am

Braves are good, Natinals are good, all the playoff teams are good. As Bobby Cox correctly said, the playoffs, especially the short series (what’s plural for series?) are a essentially a crap-shoot. Any team can get hot; any team can go cold. The Marlins won two World Series championships as a wild-card. As banged up as the Braves were two years ago against SFO, they could have easily won the series as lost it. Just get in the playoff mix, and see what happens. No matter what happens from here on, it’s been a fun and remarkable season.

Oldham

September 27th, 2012
7:41 am

Milo Hamilton called his last game last night for the Astros, as he finally retires. How was it that the Braves let him get away?

DaltonBrave

September 27th, 2012
8:05 am

Keep it going Bravos! Remember, the Cardinals squeaked their way into a wildcard spot last year and eventually won the whole thing. This year it is our turn to do the same. Keep fighting, Bravos and make us proud. GO BRAVES!

Miami Dave

September 27th, 2012
8:09 am

Thanks Davey and Frankie for your lack of expertise and support. And Davey you are wrong, clubs are using four starting pitchers in the short series wi game one opening pitchers coming back to start game 5. And Frankie, you should have remembered last year when Prado was used in RBI situations in the past, his average and power numbers dropped because he felt the need to hit for power instead of using the whole field like he has been doing this year.

Eddie

September 27th, 2012
8:14 am

Let Milo Hamilton get away? Surely you jest? There was a ticker-tape parade when he left, as an extremely unpopular lead announcer.

BravesFan79

September 27th, 2012
8:54 am

The Braves top 2 pitchers can match up with anyone (Medlen and Hudson). So im not that worried about the starting rotation in the playoffs. Id put heated up Minor at 3, and its a cointoss bt Hanson and Malholm for the 4th.

Cowbell Hell

September 27th, 2012
9:12 am

Hey braves fan 79, did you not see the game last night my friend?! Maholm might is most definately your 3rd starter and is far ahead of Minor at this stage in his career. Watching Minor this year is like a roller coaster ride, check the stats sir.

Cowbell Hell

September 27th, 2012
9:13 am

and Hanson will not see the ball in these playoffs, just my opinion

Did they celebrate last night also?

September 27th, 2012
9:17 am

Wonder if they celebrated clinching the top wild card spot? Anyone know? LOL

Did they celebrate last night also?

September 27th, 2012
9:18 am

Cowbell Hell

I also hope Hanson isn’t anywhere near the playoff roster.

John Leonard

September 27th, 2012
9:20 am

I hope Hanson does’nt see the ball in the playoffs.

Frontman

September 27th, 2012
9:23 am

Assuming that the Braves are the WC and that they win the WC game, who would they play? From what I’ve seen, it looks like they could play the Nats – I didn’t see anything to prohibit two teams from the same division playing in the first round.

Why?

September 27th, 2012
9:24 am

Frontman

Nats or Reds

BravesFanSince1974

September 27th, 2012
9:31 am

While some teams may have used only 3 pitchers in a 5 game series in the past, this year is different because there is only one travel day in that series, and you really need 4 pitchers over a 6 day series.

BravesFanSince1974

September 27th, 2012
9:36 am

Ozzie and Chipper combined for the best answer to whether they celebrated again last night. Ozzie said that it did not bother him to see the Braves celebrate on the field on Tuesday night, and that you should celebrate whatever you accomplish. Chipper said that they can surely afford a few bottles of champaign or beer. Enough said.

Cracker

September 27th, 2012
9:40 am

Either Hanson is hurt or he’s in a slump; slumps can be broken, so let’s hope that’s what it is. I’m really pulling for him tonight. After the last start, he said, “I stink.” You know he’s hurting. Wouldn’t tonight be a great time for him to find it again? We need him, if only for this one game because I’m still pulling for them to catch the Nats.

Tumbledown

September 27th, 2012
9:44 am

Davey Sprocket – Facts are that Washington has three starters better than the Braves three, even without Strasburg.

This seems like your opinion as opposed to “facts.” There may be more people who agree with your opinion, but that does not necessarily make it a fact. While I would say that the Nationals’ starters have been better for the whole season, it is hard to say that any team’s starters have been better than the Braves’ top 4 in September (notice how I exclude Hanson). I could be wrong and would love to hear reasoned opinions to the contrary.

I love Ken Stallings’s general optimism. We could use more of that around here.

BravesFanSince1974

September 27th, 2012
9:44 am

Surely, Davey Sprocket is either NOT a Braves fan, or he is the most pessimistic baseball fan on the planet. It’s a crap shoot after game 162, and everybody who has followed baseball for more than 3 seasons knows that. Get a grip, and cheer for your team in the post season. Everybody starts with a clean slate, and there is NO team in the playoffs that has not been beaten already this year by another team in the playoffs.

Tumbledown

September 27th, 2012
9:46 am

On the more realistic side, let’s not assume a victory in the Wild Card game if the Braves cannot chase down the Nats. The Cards are the defending WS champs, and it will not be an easy game by any means.

cowdogit

September 27th, 2012
10:06 am

Unless Hanson has developed a good off-speed pitch. Miami will sit on his slow fastball. The hitters can recognize his curve but would have a hard time picking up on a circle change. Wake up Roger”Do your job!

aburtch

September 27th, 2012
10:08 am

I’m feeling the momentum picking up. So great to have our offense click in at the right time.

Same Ole, negative dumbazz comments

September 27th, 2012
10:08 am

Oldham@7:41……..”Milo Hamilton called his last game, last night for the Astros. How was it that the Braves let him slip away?”

Oldham, when Ted Turner bought the Braves, the first thing that he did, was to fire Milo.
Milo who liked to call himself the ‘Voice of the Braves’, came off like he was bigger than the Braves, imo(I think that he even had a run-in with Hank Arron at one point).
So I would say that Milo’s ego, got the best of him.

Same Ole, negative dumbazz comments

September 27th, 2012
10:15 am

I remember Ship Carey telling the story, that after Milo was fired and Skip was hired, he once introduced Ernie Johnson as the Voice of the Atlanta Braves.
Skip said, that after the introduction, Ernie told Skip, that he was not the Voice of the Braves, but that all of the announcers were the Voice of the Braves(but Ernie did not say it over the airwave, of course).

reckingball

September 27th, 2012
10:24 am

cowdogit 10:06am……..Maybe the Braves should bring Leo Mazzone in for tonight’s game, and let him lay hands upon Hanson to heal him up.

Dade fan

September 27th, 2012
10:54 am

Watch for many stolen bases against Hanson, the Marlins best friend :-) .Taking one of 3 against the playoff bound Braves on the road isn’t too bad.

Braves Fan

September 27th, 2012
11:28 am

Will somebody, anybody sit Brian McOut and Dan Struggla?

northbeach Scott

September 27th, 2012
12:17 pm

Milo was hated in every town in which he worked. He was run out of St. Louis, Chicago, and Atlanta. Not sure about Houston, but he is an egomaniac. He and Joe Morgan have the same disease–the cannot be on the air without mentioning that they are HOF or Ford Frick members. I am always embarrassed for them as the have not an iota of class.

Cracker

September 27th, 2012
12:49 pm

I agree that the general outlook around here is often negative and have said on Mark’s blog that I’m just going to start assuming some of these folks aren’t Braves fans or don’t love baseball. You’d think we’re in Philadelphia. As for Hanson, I agree that an offspeed pitch would help, but neither that nor anything else will do a bit of good if he’s not able to put his pitches where he wants to. Medlen has proved (for the thousandth time) that a slow fastball can be an effective pitch. He often freezes batters with one on the 1st pitch simply because it’s on the corner, low and away. Hanson pitches behind in the count, so they know he’ll eventually have to make darned sure he throws a strike. I don’t know if he will ever have the kind of control that would make him effect with his stuff as long as his mechanics are so wonky. That’s just not a repeatable delivery. And that’s where Roger should get busy.

BravesNation

September 27th, 2012
1:12 pm

Based on some of these comments you would think that the Braves are the ONLY wildcard team to ever celebrate. Every team since the wildcard was implemented has celebrated making the playoffs. I’ve never heard anyone complain before until now. The Braves earned and deserved it.

This crap about waiting until they know what spot they’ve earned. Why? Part of the fun of celebrating is the spontanious reaction of the moment. After that dramatic walk-off home run to clinch a spot, you can’t get more spontanious than that. So, to all you bashers, I say keep quiet and mind your own business. It’s a free country, they can do what they darn well please and if you don’t like it, quit watching!

reckingball

September 27th, 2012
1:30 pm

It would be nice if some of these ‘Braves Fans’ would watch some games or at least check the boxscores, just to see what ‘Struggla’ has done during this winning Sept., for the Braves, before they make their uninformed comments.
go phillies
go braves

Tumbledown

September 27th, 2012
1:32 pm

BravesNation – I posted this on another blog.

Is it really unforgiveable that the Braves’ celebrated.reaching the playoffs? I trust that all you people critical of the celebration are the very best at what you do. I am not talking near the top. I am talking No. 1. If you are not considered the best at what you do, stop this hypocrisy. Otherwise, continue your criticisms and do not ever celebrate the milestones in your own lives unless it involves crowning you No. 1 at something.

Carl Farvman

September 27th, 2012
2:01 pm

We should use Sheets or Gergins in the WC playoff game, so we can save medlun and Hudds for the post-season.

Tumbledown

September 27th, 2012
2:09 pm

Carl Farvman – We should use Sheets or Gergins in the WC playoff game, so we can save medlun and Hudds for the post-season.

Who ae these people you speak of: Gergins, Medlun, and Hudds? Sounds like a law firm.

northbeach Scott

September 27th, 2012
2:14 pm

The Brave’s celebration was as spontaneous outpouring of emotion. God love them for it. They beat that old 2011 choke demon down, no matter what else happens this year. Everything else is upside and the Braves and Chipper are hungry and are on on a good run at the right time. That friends is a good place to be.

Cracker

September 27th, 2012
2:53 pm

That’s the spirit, northbeach Scott ! What bugs me about Uggla is his stubborn refusal to try using the entire field. We hear that he’s working on hitting the ball up the middle in bp, then, in the game, it’s pull city. He’s reducing his target area to 30 percent of the field. He even says he swings himself into slumps and swings himself out of them. Now, if he knows that–even boasts about it–it’s just mule-headed not to try punching the ball to right. But it seems to be more fun to strike out. He’s caught up in the mentality of the uppercut power hitter, and he hurts the team that way. I’m glad he’s having a better September. I really am. But he’s often the place where rallies go to die.

Ken Stallings

September 27th, 2012
3:10 pm

LOL!!! Well, I was 15 once (back in 1978)! I’ll put the performance of Hudson, Medlen, Minor, and Maholm up against any other four starters of any team in baseball, and in the month of September (if not even after the All-Star break) it measures up better!

For the most part, the bullpen has been totally lights out since the All-Star break also. Only the Reds have a bullpen ERA in the same area code.

But, hey, never try to debate a troll — he will just try to lower you to his level and beat you with his experience at being that way!

Ken Stallings

September 27th, 2012
3:15 pm

Milo Hamilton’s run-in with Hank Aaron was well documented in Hank’s autobiography, “I Had a Hammer!”

In that book, Aaron talked directly about his anger and frustration with Hamilton constantly questioning Aaron’s hustle on the field. Finally, having had enough of it, Aaron ripped a hit that normally would have been a single, but he dug it out and stretch it to a double. After he got up from the slide, Aaron looked straight at Hamilton’s press box, noticed that Hamilton had made eye contact with Aaron at second, and pointed “the finger” at him — and Aaron wasn’t calling Hamilton #1 either!

Kendell Jones

September 27th, 2012
3:49 pm

You must have been listening to a differfent Milo Hamilton than we used to listen to when he was in the booh in Atlanta. If ever an announcer stunk as an announcer, it had to be Milo.

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