Fake trade: Carlos Lee for Derek Lowe

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Braves acquire OF Carlos Lee from the Astros for RHP Derek Lowe and OF Brandon Jones.
Why it works for Atlanta: the Braves would love to bring Tim Hudson back, yet they already have five starters in Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Kenshin Kawakami. One of the vets needs to go, and the Braves could surely use some right-handed power in return. Enter Lee, who has three years and $55.5 million left on his contract. He’s not an ideal choice, given that the Braves could have an inexpensive and productive Nate McLouth-Jordan Schafer-Jason Heyward outfield in 2011. However, he’d look awfully nice in the middle of the order next year and the Braves probably aren’t going to be able to move Lowe without taking another large contract in return.
Why it works for Houston: the Astros finished 13th in the NL in ERA and 14th in runs scored this season, so they need help any way they can get it. Lee’s poor defense in left field really cuts into his value, and there’s a good case to be made for Lowe, as a consistent 200-inning-per-year guy, as the better property even before salary gets factored in. Lowe, like Lee, is signed through 2012, but the Astros would save $3.5 million per year by making the deal. It’s money that could be used to shore up the infield defense. That’s something they need to do anyway, but it’d be a must with a sinkerballer like Lowe in the rotation. They’d also get a possible fourth outfielder in Jones, who hit .281/.360/.419 in Triple-A this season.
Why it won’t happen: Lee has a no-trade clause through the end of next year, and he owns a ranch outside of Houston. He might want to stick around even if he realizes that the Braves are in a much better position to contend next year. The Astros have already foolishly committed $3 million to Brian Moehler, a pitcher who wouldn’t have much business remaining in the rotation with Lowe around. The Braves are concerned about their defense, which is one reason they didn’t pursue Adam Dunn when he was served to them on a platter last winter. They’ll likely focus on finding short-term upgrades for the offense.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closed out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before 15-game winner Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).