Well, that was fun. The Braves completed a sweep of the Mets, 3-2, as Andruw Jones went 3-4 with his 15th homer, and Keith Lockhart, of all people, scored the winning run after tripling. I have no intention of laying off Lockhart, though. The Mets fell a game below .500, are four and a half out (tied with the Expos for third), and have lost five in a row. The Braves are three and a half up on the Marlins, who play at Philadelphia tonight.
Tom Glavine won his tenth game of the season, against two defeats, going seven and giving up two runs. That was enough to rocket his ERA up all the way to 1.64, still easily the best in the NL. Only Curt Schilling has more wins, and nobody has thrown more innings… John Smoltz saved all three games of the series and is fourth in the league in that wildly overrated category with 17.
A little more about Andruw, who has reached the level where if something happens to Barry Bonds he has to be considered a real MVP candidate. He’s hitting .284 with walks (a .387 OBP) and power (.545 slugging). There are players in the NL with better statistics (Andruw is tenth in the NL in runs created, 15th in OPS)… but none with near his defensive value. Most of the players ahead of him are left or right fielders. Lance Berkman plays a lot of center, but isn’t really a CF; Jim Edmonds also rates well offensively but is wildly overrated as a defensive player. Junior Spivey, the amazing out-of-nowhere second baseman for Arizona, probably comes closest to Andruw in defensive value, but only because it’s hard to find a second baseman; his defensive statistics are probably the worst in the league.
Barry Bonds is head and shoulders above everyone offensively; after him, there are several candidates. And I think if Andruw keeps hitting like this, you’re going to start hearing his name, and soon.
The Braves knocked the Mets back to third place last night, the finishing blow coming from the bat of Henry Blanco, of all people. Henry hit a titanic homer to center field with a runner on base to break a 4-4 tie in the eighth. John Smoltz blew the Mets away in the ninth, and the Marlins are now in second place, three behind the Braves and a half game up on the Mets.
I don’t know what to make of Smoltz as a closer. Yesterday, he didn’t throw a pitch slower than 97 MPH, and the Mets looked hapless; he was pretty much the same the game before. But sometimes, he seems lost out there. He still has a sky-high 5.51 ERA, but at times, he looks unhittable. I don’t know what the problem is or if he’s solved it.
Lockhart-bashing Update: Keith Lockhart had a hit last night (every Braves starting position player had at least one) which raised his batting average to a whopping .159. Now, normally I’ll tell you that batting average is a poor statistic to judge a player’s worth, but in Lockhart’s case the batting average merely reflects an all-around sorry game. His on-base percentage is .207 and he’s slugging .280. In fact, Kevin Millwood, hitting .182, has a better OBP and SLG. Jesse Garcia is 4-10 since his callup and really should get a chance to play until he shows he can’t hit any better than Lockhart. And then he should still play, because at least he can run and play defense.