Cubs lose, watch Braves celebrate NL East title

Published: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 12:33 a.m. CDT
Caption
(David Banks)
Atlanta Braves' Tim Hudson, left, celebrates with teammates after the Braves clinched the NL East title with a 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs in a baseball game in Chicago, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/David Banks, Pool)

CHICAGO – While the Atlanta Braves jumped around in a circle near the mound at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs packed up and trudged off to their clubhouse.

It was the latest in a long series of difficult images from another losing season for the Cubs.

Edwin Jackson served up home runs to Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons, and Chicago went on to a 5-2 loss that touched off an NL East tile celebration for Atlanta.

"We have a lot of close games and we just haven't been able to come back or rally at home," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

The game was in the sixth inning when Washington lost 4-2 to Miami, giving the Braves their first division crown in eight years. There were a few high-fives in Atlanta's dugout when the Marlins won, and a couple of Braves fans did the tomahawk chop in the stands.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez high-fived a fan as he made his way to the dugout after a lineup change, and the celebration really picked up when Craig Kimbrel finished for his major league-best 49th save. The Braves poured out of the dugout and bullpen for the on-field portion of the victory party at the 99-year-old ballpark.

"You don't want to see someone celebrate on your field but it was inevitable anyways since Washington lost," Sveum said.

Last-place Chicago put two runners on with one out in the ninth, but Kimbrel struck out Brian Bogusevic and Junior Lake to end the game. Lake was 0 for 4 with four strikeouts.

"We got two guys on against Kimbrel throwing almost 100 in the shadow," Sveum said. "We're not going to do a whole lot when you can hardly see the ball."

Andrelton Simmons hit a solo drive in the fourth and a two-run shot in the eighth for Atlanta, giving him 17 homers on the year.

Simmons' second career multihomer game was more than enough run support for Julio Teheran (13-8), who struck out seven over six innings of one-run ball.

"What a great feeling," Gonzalez said. "It really is a great feeling to realize we've played 150-some games to get to this point. We knew early on that the Nationals had lost but we still wanted to be able to celebrate and come out with a win. And we did."

The Cubs had a chance to tie it when they put runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth, but Teheran managed to escape the jam despite a solid at-bat by Starlin Castro. Teheran needed 11 pitches to get Castro for a swinging strikeout, preserving Atlanta's 3-1 lead.

When asked about the Braves' celebration, Castro said he was happy for them.

"They've played pretty good baseball," he said. "I think it's going to be us like that one day pretty soon."

Freddie Freeman also hit a two-run homer for the Braves, who have won three of four. Freeman went got three hits and is batting .356 (26 for 73) with six homers and 17 RBIs in his last 20 games.

Freeman went deep in the first against Edwin Jackson (8-17), who allowed three runs and eight hits in six-plus innings. The right-hander leads the majors with 17 losses in his first season with the Cubs.

"I kind of feel like I got beat with two pitches," Jackson said, "moreso the slider 1-2 (to Simmons) than the fastball by Freeman."

Atlanta is headed to the playoffs for the second straight year and third time in four seasons. But it's the first division title for the Braves since 2005, when they won 90 games and then lost to Houston in the division series.

The Braves were the NL's top wild card a year ago, trying to make one more playoff run for Chipper Jones in the third baseman's final season. Those hopes were quickly dashed when they committed three errors in a 6-3 home loss to St. Louis in their only game of the 2012 postseason.

"We know last year what happened," Simmons said. "We played pretty good but not good enough and we had to deal with a one-game playoff thing. It's definitely a different feeling.

"Now we know we've got some time, we've got some games to work with. We've got a little bit of time to rest our players."

NOTES: The Braves went 5-1 against the Cubs this season ... Minor (13-7, 3.19 ERA) is slated to face Milwaukee RHP Marco Estrada (6-4, 4.26 ERA) when the Braves return home to open a three-game series against the Brewers on Monday. ... Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.42 ERA) faces Pirates RHP Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.35 ERA) on Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Wrigley.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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