As the Braves continued to savor the National League East championship they clinched the day before, and as they began to plan for the playoffs, there was one last regular-season home game to be played Sunday.
The Braves won this anticlimactic game, too, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 to complete a four-game sweep.
Sunday’s attendance of 34,214 brought the Braves’ total for the season at SunTrust Park to 2,555,782, up about 50,000 from last year and the Braves’ highest home attendance since 2007.
Playing a lineup filled with reserves against Phillies ace Aaron Nola, the Braves broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning on a home run by Lane Adams, who started in center field.
Adams, who spent most of this season in the minor leagues and had served mostly as a pinch-runner since rejoining Atlanta on Sept. 1, also drove in the Braves’ first run with a two-out ground-rule double in the second inning.
“You see the fun that the starters have day in and day out, and when I saw my name in the lineup I just wanted to go out and have fun and enjoy it and take it in,” Adams said. “This is a special group and a special crowd and a special time for this organization.”
Braves starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez allowed just one run on four hits in five innings of work, lowering his ERA to 2.96.
“I got quick innings,” Sanchez said. “That’s what I wanted today to drive for the postseason.”
Sanchez also got his first hit in 54 at-bats, dating to April 2014, with a third-inning single to right field.
“I’m glad that happened on my last game of the season at home,” he said.
Now the Braves go on the road for six games this week to finish the regular season – three in New York against the Mets followed by three in Philadelphia – before moving on to the playoffs.
Not surprisingly, the Braves rested many front-line players on the day after clinching the division title, starting a lineup that included only two “everyday” players – first baseman Freddie Freeman and right fielder Nick Markakis. As manager Brian Snitker had planned, Freeman and Markakis were ceremoniously lifted from the game in the top of the second inning to an appreciative ovation from the crowd.
“I thought that was pretty cool that they got to get recognized,” Snitker said. “It was very well-deserved.”
By Sunday, Snitker had received 180 congratulatory text messages and countless phone calls, many of them from people who played for him or worked with him in the Braves’ minor-league system over the decades.
“It feels good. It feels real good, actually,” Snitker said after a night to process the Braves’ first division championship in five years and just their second in 13 years. “It’s something to be proud of for the guys, for us, for everybody, for the whole organization.”
Snitker allowed himself a little time to reflect on the journey of his long career and of this improbable season.
“There were a lot of unknowns when we were down there (in spring training) in February, March,” Snitker said. “There were a lot of unknowns with young players especially, young major leaguers, who were just getting their toehold. I think probably, realistically, to say we thought (then) that we were going to win the division, I don’t know.
“I knew we were going to be better this year because our athleticism was a lot better. We have better players – younger, livelier, better players. … Sitting here today, talking about this, it’s pretty special.”
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