Braves, Phillies to go head to head with division in balance


By NOAH TRISTER - AP Baseball Writer



Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley (27) celebrates with Joc Pederson after they defeated the San Diego Padres in a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)

Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley (27) celebrates with Joc Pederson after they defeated the San Diego Padres in a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)


Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez, right, is congratulated by J.T. Realmuto after their victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)


The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are in an old-fashioned battle for the NL East title, with the wild card looking unlikely for whoever finishes second.

They’ll face each other in a three-game series starting Tuesday.

Atlanta leads the division by 2 1/2 games, meaning the Phillies will need to take at least two of three in Georgia this week to have much of a chance. Philadelphia was able to hang in the race with five straight victories, but the Phillies finally lost Sunday to a last-place Pittsburgh team.

Philadelphia ace Zack Wheeler is expected to start Tuesday night against Atlanta’s Charlie Morton.

Savor this series, because there aren’t many head-to-head matchups left between teams chasing postseason spots. The New York Yankees go to Toronto as they both pursue the American League wild cards, but then Toronto faces Baltimore and the Yankees take on a Tampa Bay team that has already clinched the AL East.

Boston, which is also in the mix for a wild card, plays at Baltimore and Washington.

Seattle hosts Oakland, and each of those teams still has a shot at the postseason, but then the Mariners face the Angels and Oakland takes on the Astros — Houston may have already clinched the AL West by then.

In the National League, the Giants (102-54) and Dodgers (100-56) continue to press for the NL West title — as they try to avoid the wild card and a single-elimination matchup that would probably be against surging St. Louis. But San Francisco and Los Angeles have finished their season series. Instead, the Giants face the Diamondbacks and Padres, and the Dodgers face the Padres and NL Central champion Brewers.

Once the Braves and Phillies are done playing each other, Atlanta faces the Mets and Philadelphia faces the Marlins.

In other words, the also-rans will have their say in who makes the playoffs.

WRAPPED UP

Three teams have already clinched division titles. The Rays won the AL East when they beat Miami 7-3 on Saturday night. Earlier in the week, the Chicago White Sox clinched the AL Central with a 7-2 win over Cleveland on Thursday. It was the team’s first division title since 2008.

St. Louis has won 16 games in a row, but that won’t be enough to catch Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Brewers wrapped up the division Sunday with an 8-4 victory over the Mets.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Shohei Ohtani has 45 home runs on the season, but on Saturday night his big accomplishment was tripling in his first two at-bats as the Los Angeles Angels beat Seattle 14-1. Ohtani also had three runs and three RBIs in that game. He has seven triples this season, only one shy of the major league lead in that category.

HIGHLIGHT

Miami right fielder Jesús Sánchez overran a flyball against Washington on Monday night, but he was able to stick his right arm out and make the catch with his bare hand.

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Follow Noah Trister at www.twitter.com/noahtrister

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Atlanta Braves’ Austin Riley (27) celebrates with Joc Pederson after they defeated the San Diego Padres in a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/09/web1_127308430-31bef8e9e5be435c8bf3e8eb550f0a8d.jpgAtlanta Braves’ Austin Riley (27) celebrates with Joc Pederson after they defeated the San Diego Padres in a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez, right, is congratulated by J.T. Realmuto after their victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/09/web1_127308430-af7d1dd07f484caa80a63f7615691b0f.jpgPhiladelphia Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez, right, is congratulated by J.T. Realmuto after their victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Baseball Writer