Braves set sights on earning home-field advantage
Atlanta holds National League's best record entering final week of season
CHICAGO -- Now that they have captured the National League East, the Braves will attempt to finish this season strong with the hope of gaining home-field advantage during the postseason leading up to the World Series.
Winning the division was important. But after celebrating this accomplishment Sunday, the Braves began looking toward this week's season-ending homestand with the understanding of the importance of maintaining the NL's best record.
If they do so, they would earn home-field advantage during the NL Division Series and NL Championship Series. Courtesy of its win in the All-Star Game, the American League has home-field advantage during the World Series.
"Everybody knows how good we are at home and home-field advantage is huge in the playoffs," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said.
With Sunday's victory, the Braves are an NL-best 92-63, while the Cardinals, who lost to the Brewers on Sunday night, are 91-65. The Dodgers are 90-66, while the Reds and Pirates are both 89-67.
Because they won the season series against each of these clubs, Atlanta would own the tiebreaker if they finish in a tie for the NL's best record.
"It all comes down to what you're able to do," Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. "It doesn't matter who you face. We don't care who we face. We've just got to perfect our game, do better getting guys in with two outs and move people over. But we're doing well enough. Look at where we are."
There would be two key benefits to securing home-field advantage. First of all, the Braves would be able to play a majority of their playoff games at Turner Field, where they have an NL-best .595 winning percentage this season. This would also allow them to avoid the dangerous NL West champion Dodgers or the NL Central winner in the best-of-five NLDS.
The club that finishes the regular season with the Senior Circuit's best record will play the winner of the one-game Wild Card playoff, which will likely be feature a matchup between the two teams that come up short in the NL Central battle being waged among the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds. There is an outside shot the Nationals could earn a chance to play in this game.
The Braves are certainly happy that they will not have to participate in this one-game playoff, which they lost to the Cardinals during their brief trip to the postseason last year.
"We know last year what happened," Simmons said. " We had to deal with a one-game playoff thing. Winning the division is definitely a different feeling."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.