Braves Make Playoff Push

When the Atlanta Braves continue their push to return to the postseason Tuesday, they could do so with a new cleanup hitter.

After reaching an agreement to acquire power-hitting first baseman Mark Teixeira on Monday, the Braves open a three-game series against the Houston Astros at Turner Field.

Atlanta (55-51) reached a deal to send rookie catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and three minor leaguers to the Texas Rangers for Teixeira. The move has not been made official, but an announcement is expected sometime Tuesday.

Teixeira, batting .297 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs in 78 games, has had at least 30 homers and 110 RBIs in each of his last three seasons. He could replace Andruw Jones, hitting .216, in the fourth spot in Atlanta's lineup as early as Tuesday night.

The Braves, who had their record streak of 14 straight division titles snapped with a third-place finish last year, made the move in hopes of overcoming a recent slump that has dropped them to third place in the NL East. They were 1 1/2 games behind the division-leading New York Mets on July 15, but have lost nine of 14 to fall 4 1/2 games behind the Mets and 1 1/2 games behind second-place Philadelphia.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Atlanta -160 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 85% of bets for this game have been placed on Atlanta -160 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

"It makes us a real World Series contender," right fielder Jeff Francoeur told the Braves' official Web site about the Teixeira deal. "I think especially in the National League, we now have the best lineup. One through eight, we have hitters that can jack it out of the park and rack up RBIs."

Atlanta didn't have much trouble scoring Sunday, matching its highest run total of the season and snapping a four-game skid with a 14-0 win over Arizona.

"It was much needed to say the least," said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who had a season-high five RBIs. "It puts a nice tidy bow on a bad couple of days."

The Astros (46-59) also had a big day at the plate Sunday, scoring 11 runs and getting 14 hits. But they gave up a season-high 18 runs - 11 in the first inning - and fell to San Diego for their second loss in three games.

"A lot of good things happened. A lot of bad things happened," manager Phil Garner told the Astros' official Web site.

Houston will face Atlanta left-hander Chuck James (8-8, 3.55 ERA), who has held opponents to two runs or fewer in each of his last five starts. He is just 2-1 in those games, however, despite a 1.47 ERA.

James held San Francisco to two runs in six innings Wednesday, but suffered a 2-1 loss after receiving only one run of support for the second straight game.

"Chuck pitched great," Francoeur said. "It seems like every night he goes out there and gives up one or two runs in six, seven innings. That's all you can ask for. He's doing a phenomenal job. We just couldn't score any runs for him, which is unfortunate because he pitched well."

James won his only career start against the Astros on Sept. 29, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings.

The Astros will send Chris Sampson (7-7, 4.29) to the mound Tuesday. The right-hander gave up four runs in five innings in a 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers last Monday, and fell to 1-2 with a 5.77 ERA in his last seven starts.

Sampson is 0-1 with a 1.80 in two games - one start - against the Braves.

This is the first meeting between Houston and Atlanta this season. The Astros won four of seven games last year, but the Braves have taken six of the last seven home contests against the Astros.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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