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ATL@PHI: Minor strikes out nine over seven innings

The Braves will take the field Monday night at Turner Field as the National League East champions for the first time since 2005. From here on out, it's all about the postseason.

That doesn't mean Atlanta has nothing to play for in these final seven games, of course. There's still the matter of home-field advantage leading up to the World Series, which the Braves can lock down by maintaining the NL's best record. That would also set up Atlanta to host the winner of the one-game NL Wild Card playoff. Atlanta leads the NL at 92-63, while St. Louis, which plays Sunday night, is 91-64.

"Hopefully we can keep this going, and I think we will," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think we'll show the fans at home that we still have some business to take care of."

So there will still be something on the line when lefty Mike Minor leads the Braves into the first of three games against the Brewers. Milwaukee will start right-hander Marco Estrada, who's pitched well since coming off the disabled list.

Minor has been somewhat inconsistent as of late, allowing at least three runs in five of his past seven starts. He gave up three runs in the first inning Tuesday against the Nationals, but he bounced back with five scoreless innings.

"It was just a bad first inning again," Minor said after that outing, a no-decision in a game the Braves eventually lost in the ninth. "I've got to limit those runs early on in the game. For whatever reason, it's happened a few times this year. I've just got to try to fix that."

Estrada, meanwhile, has come back strong after spending two months on the DL. The right-hander has posted a 2.62 ERA in seven starts since recovering from a strained left hamstring, most recently allowing three earned runs and striking out seven over seven innings against the Cubs on Tuesday.

Estrada took a shutout into the seventh in that outing before giving up three runs, including two on a homer by Welington Castillo, but it was still a step in the right direction -- his fourth quality start in his last seven trips to the mound.

"I'm trying to do the best that I can, because I'd love to stick around with this team," Estrada said Tuesday. "I know everybody here -- I'm pretty comfortable here -- so I'd love to stay here. But this game is a business. I'm trying my hardest to show these guys that I belong here, and hopefully they give me the opportunity for next year."

Brewers: Segura could play off bench
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Sunday that Jean Segura may be available to pinch-hit as soon as Monday. Segura has been sidelined since Wednesday with a strained right hamstring -- which makes running, not hitting, the primary concern -- but Roenicke was optimistic the All-Star shortstop will be available this week.

As a team, Milwaukee has little left to play for during the final week of the season. Roenicke admitted it will be difficult for some of his players to get motivated this time of year, but that's not the case for everyone.

"It's a tougher time for the vets. When the guys are used to being in the playoffs or used to having meaningful games, it's harder for them," Roenicke said. "The young guys? Nah, they're trying to show us, they're trying to put up some numbers. They want to impress somebody. It's not so difficult for them."

Braves: Johnson not focusing on batting title
Third baseman Chris Johnson is finding it hard to ignore the possibility that he might win the NL batting title, but he made a conscious effort to not think or talk about the race until the Braves locked up the division title. Johnson is batting .329 on the season after an 0-for-4 performance Sunday, just below Colorado's Michael Cuddyer, who entered Sunday hitting .331.

"I'm just glad to be where I'm at this late in the season," Johnson said. "Actually my teammates are thinking about it more than I am. This guy is telling you need to get one more hit to get your average to be 2-for-4 for the day and stuff like that. So it's pretty cool. They're rooting for me more than I'm rooting for myself."

Since picking up 17 hits against the Mets on Sept. 2, the Braves have tallied double-digit hits in two of their last 18 games -- 10 on Sept. 10 and 12 in Sunday's 5-2 victory.

Worth noting
Atlanta has spent a Major League-best 175 days in first place, carrying a division lead of at least eight games since July 24.

Brewers outfielder Khris Davis sat out of Sunday's series finale against the Cardinals but should start against Minor and Paul Maholm, both lefties, during this series. Davis has been dealing with a sore left wrist. Comments