It's official. The Atlanta Braves, after taking a loss Monday night to the Pittsburgh Pirates, will finish second in the National League East and will be the first Wild Card team. Their fate was sealed via a 2-1 final at PNC Park.
To win the division, the Braves would have had to win their final three games while the Washington Nationals had to lose their final three. The Braves would then have to play the Nationals in Washington in a one-game playoff on Thursday to determine the division winner.
"It's a little disappointing that we're going to finish second [in the division]," Chipper Jones said. "But we live on past Wednesday. It was going to be a tough row to hoe, three down [in the division] with three to play. That's never the situation you want to be in. But it is what it is now. We play Friday, and all of our concentration should be on getting ready for Friday."
The Braves will now get to rest some of their starters – Dan Uggla already sat out Monday's game with a swollen hand – and focus on Kris Medlen's start Friday against either the St. Louis Cardinals or Los Angeles Dodgers.
"Something that we shoot for is the division," Gonzalez said. "We didn't get it. We got the Wild Card game. There have been many, many teams that go through the Wild Card that go to the World Series. So we'll take it one game at a time."
Atlanta's inconsistent offense made Paul Maholm a tough-luck loser. Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke, who was shipped to Pittsburgh in the 2009 Nate McLouth trade, was originally drafted by the Braves in 2006. The W was his first big league win.
"He struggled with command," Jones said. "He was effectively wild. He got himself into a couple jams, but he didn't throw anything fat over the plate where we could get good swings on him. It was the typical first time seeing a guy and not knowing tendencies."
The astounding thing about Locke's first Major League win was that he walked five batters over six innings. The only run he allowed came on a Jason Heyward RBI-single in the third inning.
Even though the Braves have gone 19-9 in their last 28 games, they have scored two runs or fewer 13 times over that stretch; they can obviously thank their pitching staff for carrying them for the last month.
"Lack of offense is always a concern, but quite honestly you can't control when you're seeing it good and when you're swinging it good," Jones said. "I can't speak for the rest of the guys. They might feel great. I don't feel particularly good at the plate. But it's up to me to fix it before Friday."
The lack of offense caused Maholm's outing to be for naught. He gave up two runs over seven innings but had to take the loss, the last run coming off the bat off Starling Marte for a solo homer in the fifth inning. Marte also scored the Pirates' first run in the third inning after leading off with a triple.
Regardless, Maholm has reason to be confident heading into the playoffs. The home run he gave up was only the second in his last six starts, and he has held opposing batters to a .192 average and four total runs over his last three starts.
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