The Braves’ losing streak was at three before Sunday when they trotted out an injury-depleted lineup for their series finale against the Cardinals that featured five backups with combined totals of six home runs and 40 RBIs.

When you least expect it expect it.

They scored three runs in the first two innings and Mike Minor pitched seven strong innings in a 5-2 win against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium where the Braves averted a four-game sweep and reduced their magic number to 20 to clinch the National League East title.

Any combination of Atlanta wins and Washington losses totaling 20 will give the Braves their first division title since 2005.

“You don’t want to get swept especially by a team that’s probably going to be a playoff team that you have the potential of seeing” said Braves center fielder Jordan Schafer who hit a leadoff triple in the first inning and an RBI double in the second and scored both times. “You don’t want them to have that confidence if you face them in the playoffs. It was a big win for us. We just need to get back to playing good baseball and we’ll be fine.”

Andrelton Simmons hit his 12th home run for the Braves who secured the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Cardinals to determine home-field advantage should they finish with the same record and meet in the postseason. They finished 4-3 in their season series against the Cardinals and already secured tiebreakers against the Dodgers Pirates and Reds.

Minor (13-5) allowed six hits one run and one walk in seven innings and Craig Kimbrel retired the last four batters in order for his 41st save and his first multi-inning save of the season.

“First time we’ve used Kimbrel for a four-out save this year and that was nice to see” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We may have to do that come postseason if we’re lucky to get in. He hasn’t pitched in three or four days and with the off day tomorrow it was a perfect day to try to do it.”
St. Louis right-hander Lance Lynn (13-8) was charged with nine hits and four runs in seven innings.

The Cardinals scored a run on two hits against Luis Avilan in the eighth inning to pull within 5-2 before Gonzalez brought in Kimbrel to face NL batting leader Yadier Molina with a runner at second. Kimbrel induced a second-pitch groundout and got three outs in the ninth on a pair grounders and a liner to short.