Braves clinch 2023 NL East title, beat Phillies 4-1

The Atlanta Braves pose for a team photo after clinching their sixth consecutive NL East title...
The Atlanta Braves pose for a team photo after clinching their sixth consecutive NL East title by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)(Matt Slocum | AP)
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 8:04 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2023 at 9:53 PM CDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Crammed into the visitor’s clubhouse, the Atlanta Braves puffed on their championship cigars, showered each other with bubbly, shot-gunned beers and danced in alcohol puddles — until the music briefly paused.

“Turn the music up! Some people want to party!” shouted reliever Kirby Yates.

On his command, the music was cranked to max volume and the NL East title celebration resumed. Yates was the one who closed another division title, so he got to call the shots in the locker room.

And as he surveyed the jubilation around him, and ran his fingers through hair matted by booze, Yates knew there was nowhere else he wanted to be.

“So far,” he said, “it’s the best part about being a baseball player.”

It’s just what the Braves do this time of year.

The Braves clinched their sixth straight NL East title, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 on Wednesday night behind Spencer Strider’s major league-leading 17th win and Austin Riley’s two-run homer.

“Now the real party starts,” Strider said.

Yates struck out Brandon Marsh to end the game and the players danced in a mob near the mound as Phillies fans booed them off the field.

“Congratulations Atlanta Braves 2023 NL East Champions” flashed on the scoreboard.

Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. responded to booing fans by raising both arms and signaling with his hands to bring it on.

“We’ve checked one box,” manager Brian Snitker said.

Third baseman Austin Riley homered in the first to open up the scoring and hit a sacrifice fly in the third to bring in right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. Left fielder Kevin Pillar doubled in the fourth to score designated hitter Marcell Ozuna.

First baseman Matt Olson will have to wait one more game to break the Braves’ single-season home run record. The lefty went 0-4 against Phillies pitching.

Starter Spencer Strider also reached a milestone with his nine strikeouts. He now has 424 strikeouts in his first 50 career starts, the most since 1893.

The Braves became the first team to clinch a playoff berth with a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates Sept. 10. The Braves own the best record in baseball.

This is their sixth straight division title and their 18th as a franchise. The six straight playoff appearances are the second-most in franchise history; the Braves won 11 straight NL East titles from 1995-2005. That streak included a World Series win in 1995.

The Braves clinched in 146 games, their second-quickest clinch in the divisional era. The division title was the Braves’ record 26th, two more than the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees,

The Braves have seemingly made winning the East a rite of September since the 1990s and this year’s team looks loaded enough to win their third World Series since moving from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. Over that span, Atlanta won 11 straight NL East titles from 1995-2005, and the World Series in 1995 and 2021.

The Braves have gone nearly wire-to-wire in the 2023 season. They only spent one day in 2nd place in early April and have been the cream of the crop in the NL East ever since. Coming into tonight’s game, the Braves were up 16 games on the Phillies. No NL East team has been within five games of the Braves since June 14 or within 10 since July 19.

Atlanta took special satisfaction in clinching on the same Citizens Bank Park field where the Phillies eliminated them last October in the NL Division Series. The Phillies won that series 3-1 -- just as Atlanta won this four-game set.

The Phillies lead the NL wild card and the teams could face each other in October.

For now, September belongs to the Braves.

“Did we want it to be on our field? No,” Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber said. “But they’re going to have to do it somewhere. The focus is on us, still. We’re going to keep pushing until the very end.”

Riley, one of many big boppers in the lineup, gave the Braves all the runs they needed when he connected off Cristopher Sánchez (2-4) in the first for his 35th homer.

“I try not to think of moments like that,” Riley said. “You just try and go up there and have a good at-bat. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself this year to perform in those moments. I was able to put a good swing on there.”

Multiple NL East teams still have shots at a playoff berth despite the Braves locking up the division. The Phillies are in the first National League Wild Card spot and the Miami Marlins are only 1.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the third spot.