Braves clinch 2nd straight NL East title, eliminate Giants

Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuna Jr., right, reacts after hitting a two-RBI home run to score Mike Foltynewicz, left, against the San Francisco Giants during the fifth inning in a baseball game on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

By GEORGE HENRY

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves clinched their second straight NL East title as Ronald Acuña Jr. hit his 41st homer in a 6-0 win over San Francisco on Friday night that eliminated the Giants from postseason contention in Bruce Bochy’s last year as San Francisco manager.

Acuña scored three runs to back Mike Foltynewicz (8-5), who allowed three hits in eight innings. Atlanta’s 19th division title tied the New York Yankees for the most since Major League Baseball split into divisions for the 1969 season.

Atlanta’s win ensured it will finish ahead of second-place Washington and will start the NL Division Series at home on Oct. 3, most likely against the NL Central champion.

Braves players ran onto the infield to celebrate as soon as Acuña caught Alex Dickerson’s game-ending flyout.

Atlanta (95-60) moved into sole possession of first place for good on June 12. Led by Acuña, Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson and a offense that produced a franchise-best 241 homers, its lead swelled from 5½ to 10 games in six days ending with a 9-4 home win over Washington on Sept. 7.

The Braves, who have not won a postseason series since 2001, secured a playoffs berth last week and needed a few extra days to clinch the division. They lost three in a row for the first time since July 16-18 but have won two straight.

Bochy was given a standing ovation when a video tribute was played before the second inning. The 64-year-old is retiring after 25 seasons as a major league manager, including 13 years in San Francisco highlighted by three World Series titles. He managed his 2,000th regular season win this week.

Foltynewicz (8-5), who also won last year’s clincher in Game No. 155, is 4-0 with an 0.69 ERA in four starts this month. He has won seven straight decisions in a span interrupted by a six-start demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, but the Braves have won his last 12 starts, the longest streak in the majors this year.

Josh Tomlin finished a four-hitter.

Freeman’s sacrifice fly in the first and Ozzie Albies’ RBI single in the second built a lead. Acuña hit a two-run homer in the fourth and Brian McCann added a two-run homer in the sixth off Tyler Beede (5-10), who allowed seven hits in six innings.

Mike Yastrzemski had all three hits for the Giants (74-80).

UP NEXT

Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his third start Saturday since Tommy John surgery.

Braves: LHP Max Fried (16-6, 4.25 ERA) has allowed 21 earned runs over 23 1/3 innings in his last three starts.

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More AP MLB: HERE and TWITTER.

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