The Braves can help themselves, or get good news from the result of a division rival.
The Braves can clinch the National League East on Sunday by beating the Cubs, and they can also earn the crown as the result of the next Washington loss. Rained out Saturday night, the Nationals and Marlins will play a day-night doubleheader Sunday in Washington. The first game is scheduled to begin at 1:35 p.m. ET, 45 minutes before the first pitch between the Braves and Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Atlanta has led its division for 174 days, tops among all big league teams, and can still clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Braves, who have led the NL East by at least four games on every day since May 21, will joust with St. Louis down the stretch for the league's best record. The Reds, Pirates and Dodgers also have a shot at the best record, increasing the urgency for the Cardinals and Braves to play well until the end.
Chicago, meanwhile, will come into the series finale on a bit of a slide. The Cubs are 17-35 in their last 52 games, and they're 10-19 when veteran Edwin Jackson starts. Jackson will get the ball Sunday, and he'll be matched against Julio Teheran for the Braves.
Teheran, a 22-year-old from Colombia, has been outstanding in his first full season. The right-hander has made 28 starts, and he's remained fresh as the season has progressed. Teheran has a 5-3 record and a 2.77 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break, and he has a 3.51 road ERA.
Jackson, who has more losses (16) than any other pitcher in the NL, has been consistently erratic both at home and on the road. Jackson has a 4.50 ERA in 12 starts at Wrigley Field and a 4.94 mark in 17 starts away, and he's notched a 2-6 record with a 4.21 ERA since the All-Star break.
The Braves led from the fourth inning through the seventh in Saturday's game, but a late Chicago rally kept the road team from a chance to celebrate at the Friendly Confines.e Despite that loss, the Braves are 69-6 when leading after seven innings, a testament to the strength of their bullpen.
Atlanta is just 8-11 in September. So far, the Braves have posted a winning record in every month of the season.
Braves: Heyward back, taking it slow
Atlanta activated Jason Heyward from the disabled list Friday, and he'll have a chance to play himself back into shape over the next week. Heyward, who missed 26 games after being hit by a pitch that caused two fractures to his jaw, did not start on Saturday but came in late as a defender.
Heyward, before his injury, was batting .299 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs in his previous 44 games. He had also begun to establish himself as the team's leadoff man. Now, with eight games to play, the Braves want Heyward to get comfortable and ready to face playoff-level pitching.
Cubs: Different look as season winds down
The Cubs only have half of the players from their Opening Day roster still on their roster at the end of the season. Chicago, despite having 32 players on the September expanded roster, has just 12 players left from Opening Day, and Nate Schierholtz is the lone outfielder remaining from April.
Only two relievers -- James Russell and Hector Rondon -- remain from the Opening Day bullpen. And as a direct result of all that turnover, the Cubs have seen a franchise record 33 players make their big league debut this season. The previous record, 30, was set by the 1902 Chicago Cubs.
• Atlanta's biggest division lead was a 16-game edge on Aug. 19.
• Atlanta catcher Christian Bethancourt celebrated his 22nd birthday Saturday.
• The Braves lead all NL clubs with 174 home runs. Atlanta has eight players with at least 10 homers.
• The Cubs are 20-32 in one-run games.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.