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NL East: Atlanta | Montreal | Florida | New York | Philadelphia
  ATLANTA BRAVES (56-32)
   .258 BA (10th in NL), 2.99 ERA (1st in NL)

Tom Glavine
The Good: The Braves finish the first half with the best record in baseball. Tom Glavine (11-4, 2.27 ERA) has the lowest ERA among starters in the majors and John Smoltz (31 saves in 34 tries) has been money as the closer, part of the best bullpen in baseball (2.28 ERA). Matt Franco (.357, five HRs in 25 games) has nailed down the first base job. Rafael Furcal (.286, 57 runs) has been very good.

The Bad: Chipper Jones is hitting (.307), but not with power (only nine HRs). Andruw Jones still strikes out (83) too much. Gary Sheffield was bothered early by injuries. Greg Maddux spent his first time on the DL but looks to be back in form. Second base is still unsettled.

What's Next: A 21-5 June put the Braves way out in front in the East, where they should stay if they stay healthy. Chipper should find his power stroke, Sheffield is coming around, the staff is Braves-solid. A 100-win season?  


  MONTREAL EXPOS (46-41)
   .264 BA (5th in NL), 4.08 ERA (7th in NL)

Bartolo Colon
The Good: All-Star Jose Vidro (.321) is the best second baseman in the NL. Vladimir Guerrero (.321, 18 HRs, 59 RBIs), the right fielder, is right there with him. Bartolo Colon joins Tony Armas (8-7, 3.92) and Javier Vazquez (6-5, 3.68) to solidify the rotation, which may soon include Ryan Dempster of the Marlins.

The Bad: No power (10th in HRs, 9th in slugging) outside of Vlad, which is why they're looking at Cliff Floyd to go with Dempster. No lights-out guy in the bullpen to speak of. The Expos are a great story, coming back from the dead. You just wonder how long the story will last.

What's Next: They'll chase the Braves -- especially if they get Floyd and Dempster -- but catching them will be difficult. (The Expos are 3-6 against Atlanta). In reality, what the Expos are after here is a wild-card spot. That's possible, but they'll have to have a better second half.  


  FLORIDA MARLINS (45-43)
   .265 BA (4th in NL), 4.27 ERA (10th in NL)

Luis Castillo
The Good: Luis Castillo's 35-game hitting streak was a beauty. Mike Lowell, a doubles machine (he leads the NL with 31) and good defensively, should have been the All-Star starter at third. Cliff Floyd (.287, 57 RBIs) has slumped but still drives them in.

The Bad: The starters all have been iffy. The closer, Vladimir Nunez, has blown six saves and the rest of the pen is a crapshoot (13th in the NL with a 4.05 ERA). Preston Wilson still strikes out waaay (88 times) too much. Has anyone seen Charles Johnson?

What's Next: The Marlins seems to be in the hunt, but it's deceiving. They're ready to ship out Floyd and Dempster and, with them, the Marlins' hopes for this season.  


  NEW YORK METS (43-44)
   .250 BA (13th in NL), 3.65 ERA (3rd in NL)

Mike Piazza
The Good: Mike Piazza (.285, 18 HRs, 56 RBIs) is still the class of the NL's catchers. And Al Leiter (8-7, 2.90 ERA) is still among the best lefties in the league. Armando Benitez is a steady closer who hasn't had nearly enough chances with this poor-hitting team.

The Bad: Roberto Alomar (.268, 7, 30) has had an off first half, almost as bad as Mo Vaughn's (.248, 10, 34), Roger Cedeno's (.247, 12 stolen bases) and Jeromy Burnitz's (.206, 9, 30), three of the other big offseason acquisitions. When Shawn Estes missed Roger Clemens with that pitch, it said it all.

What's Next: The Mets started off badly last season, too, and their inspired second half fell painfully short. They may do some trading this month, but with all the supposed help they got in the offseason, what's the point? Manager Bobby Valentine will feel some New York heat this summer.  


  PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (39-47)
   .257 BA (11th in NL), 4.52 ERA (13th in NL)

Pat Burrell
The Good: Last-sec All-Star Vicente Padilla (10-5, 3.05 ERA) is nasty, and we mean that in only the best sense. Right fielder Bobby Abreu (.302, 43 RBIs) is coming around, but the rest of this team is overtly underwhelming.

The Bad: The Scott Rolen fiasco -- no, not the fact he's an All-Star -- has sickened this team, and hyper-demanding manager Larry Bowa can't fix it. There is not a team in baseball with this talent that is this bad. Rolen (.253, 58 RBIs) has to take a lot of the blame.

What's Next: A Rolen trade, if the Phillies can find any takers. And a long, long second half either way. Look for a lot of call-ups, too, guys like Marlon Byrd, who could push Doug Glanville (.230) out of center.  


  Note: All stats through Sunday. All photos AP

 


 
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