ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Olson hit his major league-leading 54th homer, and the Atlanta Braves clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason with a 5-3 win over the slumping Chicago Cubs on Thursday night.
Austin Riley had three hits and scored two runs as the Braves (103-56) won for the sixth time in seven games. The NL East champions can match the franchise record for wins with a season-ending sweep of the Nationals.
“(Truist Park) is one of the best atmospheres in baseball,” Olson said of clinching home-field advantage. “A bunch of fans who come out and support, understand the game. It's the best place to play.”
Chicago has dropped 13 of 19 to fall out of position for an NL wild card. With the three-game sweep by the Braves, the Cubs (82-77) fell a half-game back of Miami for the third wild card.
“Very frustrating,” Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman said. “We seem defeated at times. Everything that could be going wrong is going wrong. Hopefully luck starts to go in our favor in Milwaukee.”
The Marlins led 2-1 in the ninth inning when their game at the New York Mets was suspended by rain. The Cubs finish with three games at the NL Central champion Brewers. The Marlins close with three games at Pittsburgh and would have to return to New York on Monday to complete the game against the Mets if it’s needed to determine a postseason spot.
Atlanta rookie A.J. Smith-Shawver allowed a run in 3 2/3 hitless innings. Kyle Wright (1-3) then came in and pitched 2 1/3 innings of one-run ball. Raisel Iglesias picked up his 32nd save with a perfect ninth inning.
Stroman (10-9) was charged with four runs, two earned, and four hits in two innings. It was his second start and fourth appearance overall since coming off the injured list Sept. 15.
“I don’t think the confidence has dimmed,” Stroman said. “Things are just not going our way. You can feel it and see it when things aren’t going your way. Everyone still thinks we can get the job done, it is just sometimes things aren’t in your favor.”
Seiya Suzuki had three hits and two RBIs for the Cubs. Nico Hoerner went 2 for 4 and scored a run.
“This team is going to fight tooth-and-nail every game until the end of the season,” Cubs manager David Ross said.
ONE BLAST, TWO RECORDS
Olson set a franchise record for RBIs in a season with his two-run drive in the first inning. The homer gave him 136 RBIs, surpassing the 135 for Eddie Matthews in 1953.
The big swing also gave the Braves 47 first-inning homers, breaking the MLB record. Olson has hit 12 of his 54 home runs in the first.
SIM GAMES ON DECK
The Braves are planning to hold intrasquad games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week during their five-day break between the end of the regular season and the National League Division Series. They will be open to the public.
“I think it’s just as we processed all this and doing something different than we did last year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I thought we did a good job last year, but it wasn’t good enough, I don’t think.”
The Braves lost to the Phillies in four games in the NLDS last season after having a five-day break after the regular season.
“We’ll try to keep everything like we would on a normal week as best we can,” Snitker said. “I don’t know how long the games will be. It’ll be up to the pitching, but still make it more realistic than what we did last year.”
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (6-8, 3.66 ERA) will open the final three-game series of the season at Milwaukee on Friday night.
Braves: RHP Allan Winans (1-2, 4.33 ERA) will face Washington RHP Trevor Williams (6-10, 5.55 ERA) as the Braves open their final regular-season series against the visiting Nationals.
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