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First Half Milestones for Atlanta Braves

ATLANTA (AP) _ The Atlanta Braves already have made 2007 a year
of milestones.
Chipper Jones collected his two-thousandth career hit and became
Atlanta's all-time home run leader, passing Dale Murphy. John
Smoltz earned his 200th career win. Manager Bobby Cox matched the
all-time record for ejections.
Jones, Smoltz and Cox would prefer the focus turned to team
goals for the second half of the season, with the object a return
to the playoffs.
The Braves (47-42) closed a 6-and-4 road trip with a 5-to-4 win
at San Diego last night to enter the All-Star break only two games
behind the first-place New York Mets in the N-L East. Catcher Brian
McCann will represent the Braves in tomorrow night's All-Star game.
One year ago, the Braves were only 40-and-49 at the break and
they missed the playoffs in a non-strike season for the first time
since 1990.
Cox and his team must address several issues in the second half:
-- The Braves need to improve their play at Turner Field as they
launch a 10-game homestand on Friday night against Pittsburgh.
Atlanta is a solid 25-and-21 on the road but only 22-and-21 at
home.
-- Smoltz must make a successful return from the disabled list.
Also, Atlanta must have more consistent starts from the bottom of
its rotation.
-- The Braves, who suffered a key loss when set-up reliever Mike
Gonzalez suffered a season-ending elbow injury in late May, need
better road results from closer Bob Wickman.
-- Finally, as general manager John Schuerholz considers his
trade options, decisions must be made with versatile rookies Yunel
Escobar, who can play third, second and shortstop, and Jarrod
Saltalamacchia, who came up as a catcher but could move past
Thorman as the starter at first base.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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