Despite falling to the Expos 5-4 in 10 innings on Tuesday, the Braves became the first major league team this year to clinch a playoff berth when Los Angeles lost to Arizona. Florida and Philadelphia, battling for the NL wild card, cannot both finish with a better record than the NL East-leading Braves.
Atlanta’s magic number for clinching its 12th consecutive division title is down to two, meaning a win Tuesday, coupled with a Marlins loss to the Phillies will wrap up the East.
Though its a virtual certainty the Braves will get the division clinched over the next few days, Braves outfielder Chipper Jones was disappointed that Atlanta blew a 4-1 lead Wednesday.
“We let them back in the game in the eighth, and they took advantage in the ninth and 10th,” Jones said. “We haven’t been getting a lot of consistency once we get past our starters. Hopefully, that will solidify before the end of the season.”
The win put the Expos seven games behind Florida in the wild-card race.
STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place, NL East. Expos - 4th place, 17 GB, NL East.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Mike Hampton (13-7, 3.69 ERA). The left-hander did not receive a decision in Friday’s 5-4 loss at Florida despite allowing just two runs and eight hits over seven innings. Hampton has fared well in his career against Montreal, going 7-2 with a 3.43 ERA over seven starts.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: T.J. Tucker (1-2, 4.42 ERA). The right-hander allowed two runs and six hits over six innings in a 7-4 win over the Mets on Friday. It was his first win as a starter since joining the rotation on Aug. 19. Tucker has never started against the Braves, but has made 11 relief appearances against them, going 2-1 with a 4.11 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Braves - Gary Sheffield, .331 avg., 122 RBIs; Javy Lopez, 40 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 123 runs and 25 SBs. Expos - Jose Vidro, .315 avg.; Vladimir Guerrero, 25 HRs and 79 RBIs; Orlando Cabrera, 93 runs and 23 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 9-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - LHP Hampton has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 16 of 28 starts this season. … C Lopez caught RHP Greg Maddux in a regular-season game Tuesday for the first time since Sept. 8, 1998. … OF Chipper Jones drove in three runs Tuesday to give him 101 RBIs. He tied an NL-record with his eighth straight 100-RBI season, joining Mel Ott, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa. Expos - C Mike Barrett is 3-for-17 in his career against Hampton. … Montreal, in its second-to-last home game, surpassed 1 million in home attendance for the first time in six years Tuesday. A crowd of 9,843 raised the Expos’ total to 1,008,113—including 22 home games that were moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico. … OF Guerrero is 5-for-16 in his career against LHP Hampton, including three solo homers.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 43-34 on the road; Expos - 52-28 at home.
INJURIES: Braves - OF Damon Hollins (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Kevin Gryboski (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP John Smoltz (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 60-day DL. Expos - RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Dan Smith (shoulder), 60-day DL; 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 60-day DL.