Having clinched a playoff spot, the Atlanta Braves don't have to worry about another late-season collapse now.
The Braves look to win their fourth straight Wednesday night when they continue their series against the Miami Marlins .
Freddie Freeman hit a two-run, walk-off homer Tuesday, giving Atlanta a 4-3 win and at least an NL wild-card berth. The victory also pulled the club within four games of Washington for first place in the East.
The Braves (89-65) equaled their win total from last season, when they blew an 8 1/2-game lead in the wild-card standings in the final month after finishing September 9-18.
"They took the attitude last year to try and hang on," Chipper Jones said. "This year we took the bull by the horns. We're shooting for the stars. We're still shooting for the division until they close us out."
With Freeman's homer - his second in three games and career-high 22nd - Atlanta doesn't have to be concerned with a repeat. The Braves have won 15 of 21, with their staff recording a 2.60 ERA over that span.
That number shrinks to 2.19 in 16 games this season against Miami, helping Atlanta to 12 wins.
Freeman has also been instrumental in that success versus the Marlins, hitting .309 (17 of 55) with 12 RBIs. He's 12 for 24 with two homers and seven RBIs in his last six home games against them.
Paul Maholm (12-10, 3.85 ERA) will try to extend Atlanta's winning streak as he takes the mound Wednesday.
Maholm, who is 7-3 with a 3.30 ERA at home, allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-3, 10-inning loss at Miami on Sept. 18.
That was the left-hander's second strong outing against the Marlins this year. He surrendered one run in eight innings of a 4-2 victory July 19.
While Atlanta can begin its postseason preparations, Miami (66-88) will try to end a five-game skid during which it has scored 11 runs.
Mike Dunn was charged with his fifth blown save in six chances Tuesday. Regular closer Steve Cishek has not seen action since Sept. 18, when he gave up three runs in one-third of an inning against Atlanta.
Manager Ozzie Guillen has had his share of problems with the bullpen this week. On Tuesday he spoke out after Heath Bell , who opened the season as the team's closer, criticized the manager on a local radio show."I laughed," Guillen said of Bell's comments. "I have so (many) problems in my life with the ballclub, to see why we failed - comments like that, everybody has his own opinion."
Guillen will hand the ball to Josh Johnson (8-13, 3.84) on Wednesday.
Johnson has lost his last two starts and is 1-6 in his last eight. The Marlins have averaged 2.3 runs of support during that eight-game span.
The right-hander gave up three runs and five hits in six innings of a 3-0 loss to Atlanta last Wednesday.
Johnson is 1-2 against the Braves this year despite a 2.29 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 19 2-3 innings. He has a 2.29 ERA in 19 career appearances against Atlanta, including 1.49 on the road.
|September 21, 2012||Justin Ruggiano||Day-to-Day||Sprained right shoulder|
|September 18, 2012||Giancarlo Stanton||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|September 14, 2012||Carlos Lee||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained neck|
|September 04, 2012||Heath Bell||Day-to-Day||Sore left foot|
|August 22, 2012||Emilio Bonifacio||60-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|August 13, 2012||Nick Green||15-Day DL||Sprained left thumb|
|September 18, 2012||Paul Janish||Day-to-Day||Shoulder|
|September 15, 2012||Brian McCann||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring tendinitis|
|August 25, 2012||Ben Sheets||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 25, 2012||Ben Sheets||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 10, 2012||Chipper Jones||Day-to-Day||Back tightness|
|August 01, 2012||Jair Jurrjens||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Fredi Gonzalez said he wasn't worried his Braves players would dwell on their champagne celebration the night before.
"That didn't bother me," Gonzalez said. "I think there's still something to be played for, and they know that."
The Braves showed good focus, beating Miami 3-0 on Wednesday night as Martin Prado homered and Paul Maholm combined with three relievers on a six-hitter.
From the first inning, when Prado homered, to the ninth, when closer Craig Kimbrel struck out four, the Braves showed they haven't given up on catching Washington in the NL East.
The win came one night after Atlanta clinched at least an NL wild-card berth with Tuesday night's 4-3 win over the Marlins. After the game, Braves players sprayed champagne on each other in the clubhouse and on the field.
The Braves remained four games behind first-place Washington in the NL East. The Nationals beat the Phillies 8-4.
With only seven games remaining in the regular season, the Braves are running out of time to catch the Nationals. They haven't given up on the chase.
"It's going to be a difficult task, but it can be done," Gonzalez said. "We just have to win and see what happens."
Prado said a strong finish to the regular season is important to the postseason hopes.
"I think the way we're playing right now, we just want to keep going all the way to the end," Prado said.
"We want to finish strong, to win as many games as we can."
Prado drove in Jose Constanza with a third-inning single off Josh Johnson (8-14). Prado had two of the Braves' four hits.
Miami has lost six straight and eight of nine.
Maholm (13-10) earned only his second win in his last seven starts. The left-hander gave up five hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings.
"I tried to do as much as I could to try to treat it like a playoff game," Maholm said.
"Obviously, this is what you play for. You want to play in October. You want to play in the postseason. It's fun to come to the park and know there's some added pressure to come in and try to do some things."
Chad Durbin recorded the final out in the seventh. Eric O'Flaherty pitched the eighth.
Kimbrel earned his 40th save, matching Jason Motte for the NL lead, with a perfect ninth inning. He struck out four in the inning. Donovan Solano struck out but reached on a wild pitch. Kimbrel also struck out Greg Dobbs , John Buck and Gil Velazquez .
"This kid's amazing!" Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Every time he's on the mound, I guarantee you everybody in the Atlanta organization feels pretty good about it. He's one of the best ones on the mound right now, if not the best."
Kimbrel was the first Braves pitcher to record four strikeouts in an inning since Mark Wohlers against the Cubs on June 7, 1995.
The Braves scored an unearned run off Johnson in the sixth. Dan Uggla reached on third baseman Velazquez's low throw to first base for an error. Uggla moved to third on Brian McCann 's single.
With Maholm at the plate, Uggla took off from third on an apparent attempted suicide squeeze. Maholm waved his bat at the pitch, which was wide of the plate and beyond the reach of Buck, the catcher. Uggla scored easily and was credited with a stolen base.
Johnson allowed three runs, two earned, four hits and five walks in six innings.
Johnson said he couldn't afford to give up any runs.
"They're playing good baseball," said Johnson of the Braves. "You've got to throw up a zero."
Guillen said Johnson "threw the ball well" but said "The other guy threw the ball better than him.
"I don't want to take anything away from the lefty (Maholm)," Guillen said. "He shut us down."
Velazquez had two of Miami's six hits.
NOTES: Uggla's steal of home was the Braves' first since Jason Heyward on July 28, 2010, at Washington. ... Braves CF Michael Bourn (jammed left thumb) missed his third straight start. ... Heyward stole second, his 20th, after a first-inning walk. ... Guillen said OF Giancarlo Stanton (sore left ribcage) may be held out until Friday's opening game of a home series against the Phillies. ... Guillen said he had no problem with the Braves celebrating after clinching at least a wild-card spot Tuesday night. "Everybody should celebrate everything they do in life," Guillen said. ... Braves RHP Tommy Hanson (12-9) will face Miami RHP Jacob Turner (1-3) in Thursday night's finale of the three-game series.