Braves shift focus to NL East crown and series win over Marlins

Having locked up their second playoff appearance in three seasons, the Atlanta Braves turn their focus to the NL East title on Wednesday evening when they continue a three-game set with the Miami Marlins.

The Braves picked up a dramatic 4-3 win last night, winning on Freddie Freeman's two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Marlins reliever Mike Dunn. Chipper Jones led off the frame with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch before Freeman launched his 22nd homer of the season.

The victory assured Atlanta at least a wild card berth and moved the club to within four games of the first-place Washington Nationals in the division. The Nats lost to the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday and have a magic number of five to claim the NL East crown.

Atlanta blew an 8 1/2 game lead in the wild card race last season, but have played very well in September this year, going 15-7. That includes wins in three straight and eight of its last 10.

"There was never any doubt (we would make the playoffs)," said Jones, whose final MLB season will now extend deeper into October. "We knew that last year was somewhat of a fluke. We kind of got caught not really knowing what to expect. This year we took the bull by the horns. We were shooting for the stars. We're still shooting for the division until (the Nationals) close it out."

Starter Kris Medlen did not get a decision, but the Braves still matched an MLB record by winning for the 22nd straight time when he starts.

Donovan Solano clubbed a two-run home run and a solo shot for the Marlins, who lost for the fifth consecutive time. Entering play on Tuesday, Solano had no RBI in his first 251 major league at-bats.

"We've lost a lot of games, and to lose a game like that, it's heart- breaking," Dunn said. "Especially with the way the team played today. They battled. (Marlins starter Nate) Eovaldi pitched his butt off today. We just fought and never gave up. Then to just give it up on two hitters, it sucks."

The Marlins are hoping to have outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup tonight for the first time since Sept. 16 because of a sore left intercostal muscle, while Michael Bourn is slated to play for the Braves tonight for the first time since suffering a left thumb injury during a headfirst slide on Saturday.

Getting the start for the Braves will be Paul Maholm, who did not factor into a start versus the Marlins last Tuesday. He gave up two runs on four hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out five with one walks.

Maholm has won just once in his past six starts, dropping him to 3-4 with a 4.09 earned run average in nine starts since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs by Atlanta. The lefty went 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 21 appearances before the trade.

Maholm, 30, is 4-5 in his career versus the Marlins with a 4.75 ERA in 10 starts.

Miami counters with Josh Johnson, who has lost two straight starts and six of his past seven decisions. He is coming off a 3-0 defeat to the Braves on Wednesday, giving up all three runs in six innings of work.

The righty gave up a run in each of his first three frames of work and yielded five hits and three walks overall.

"The first three innings it was all over the place," Johnson said. "They were just fouling balls off and getting deep in their counts. I was getting guys down 0-2 or 1-2 and letting them back in. I can't do that."

Johnson, 30, is 8-13 with a 3.84 ERA in 30 starts this season and 6-5 with a 2.29 ERA lifetime against the Braves.

The Braves have won 12 of 16 versus the Marlins this season, going 5-2 at home.