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 6-4 road trip with a 5-4 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.
One year ago, the Braves were only 40-49 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 25-21 on the road but only 22-21 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.