Five teams that need to make a deal

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There are no teams that are 100% happy with where they stand right now and everyone can improve. And while some teams on the margins of the playoff race may need the most improvement, the following five teams are the ones who could and should do something to preserve their playoff hopes and dreams between now and the trading deadline tomorrow afternoon:

1. Atlanta Braves:  They just watched the Phillies add an ace pitcher and call up a young stud prospect. In a few weeks they’ll get their all-world second baseman back. Meanwhile, the Braves have been struggling and continue to run out an outfield consisting of Jason Heyward, a can of sliced pears and belly button lint.  If they want to stand pat, great, stand pat. Just don’t expect to win the NL East doing it.  Josh Willingham would be a great pickup for them, but it’s doubtful the Nats would deal in the division. Luke Scott? Jim Edmonds? Cody Ross?

2. St. Louis Cardinals: They may have a nice big three in Carpenter, Wainwright and Garcia, but you need a competent four or five to make the playoffs if you’re in a tight race.  Their interest in Oswalt was not just a ploy for postseason dominance: things fall off precipitously after those three.  They could use a starter. Jake Westbrook anyone?

3. Chicago White Sox: The stuff this morning about the Chisox wanting to trade Edwin Jackson and actually keep him makes no sense to me. They want — and need — a big bopper like Adam Dunn, and the White Sox should flip Jackson for him if the deal with Arizona goes down. I’m inclined to believe that’s their real plan anyway, and the talk of keeping Jackson is designed to make the Nationals feel like they have less leverage than they really do.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Like the Cardinals, the Dodgers have a couple of good starters at the front end of the rotation and a black hole at the back end. Can they take on any payroll at all?  Can they pry Ted Lilly away from the Cubs? They should certainly try.

5. New York Yankees: Surprising? Sure, because they’re the best team in baseball. But the Yankees’ have two big enemies, and I’m not talking about the Red Sox and the Rays: complacency and injuries. They could insure against both of those with a deal right now. The Bombers are talking big about wanting to use the DH slot to rest Old Men Posada, Rodriguez and Jeter down the stretch, but maybe they should get in on the Adam Dunn thing between now and tomorrow, no?  Also, while I think Joba Chamberlain will be fine over the long term, it may not be the worst plan in the world for them to pick up a reliever like Scott Downs (at least if his price comes down).

Will any of these teams make a move? I’d say only two probably will, with my guess being the White Sox and the Yankees.  But rust never sleeps, my friends, and any team that thinks the status quo is just dandy right now risks watching the playoffs from their rumpus room come October. 

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.