Anderson, three-run first down Mets
Rookie's three hits help propel Braves to victory
ATLANTA -- Josh Anderson began his night by receiving a Minor League player of the year award. But by the time the night ended, the Braves center fielder had proven to be a major player in yet another Mets loss at Turner Field.
While the Mets are battling to earn a postseason bid, Anderson finds himself looking to prove that he has earned the right to stay at the Major League level next season.
Anderson certainly enhanced his resume with a three-hit performance that backed Jorge Campillo's strong six-inning effort and helped the Braves claim a 4-2 win over the Mets in front of a season-high crowd of 50,124 at The Ted on Saturday.
"The energy here is great," said Anderson, who was named Triple-A Richmond's player of the year during a pregame ceremony. "For me, playing any game up here is special."
Because they still have hope to be playing in October, these games are certainly special for the Mets. But in losing seven of the eight games they've played at Turner Field this season, the Mets haven't found much recent joy in Atlanta.
With this latest defeat, the Mets fell a half-game behind the front-running Phillies in the National League East race. Earlier this week, the Phillies completed a perfect 9-0 season road series against the Braves.
"It was a great game in front of the hometown fans," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, whose team has won three of the five games they've played against the Mets this month. "Fifty thousand [fans], that was exciting for the guys."
Anderson, who entered with just four hits in his previous 29 at-bats, sparked the excitement with a single to begin a three-run first inning against Pedro Martinez. Two batters later, Kelly Johnson drilled an RBI double to right-center field to extend his career-best hitting streak to 18 games.
Martinez, who was charged with four earned runs and nine hits in six innings, righted himself after the first inning and didn't allow another run until Anderson produced an insurance run with a two-out, sixth-inning RBI single.
Anderson, who recorded two stolen bases for the first time in his career, ended the night with three singles and was denied a fourth when first-base umpire Gary Darling ruled that Carlos Delgado had beat the Braves' speedy outfielder to the first-base bag in the second inning.
"He's a singles kind of hitter," Cox said of Anderson, who hit .314 and recorded 42 stolen bases with Richmond this year. "But that's OK. He's got blazing speed."
Nobody has claimed that Campillo has anything that's blazing. But while limiting the Mets to just two earned runs and five hits in six innings, the 30-year-old rookie once again found success with his varied offspeed repertoire and won for the first time in eight starts.
"It's something special to do it against a future Hall of Famer," Campillo said in reference to Martinez, whose greatest contribution came in the fifth inning when he surprised the Braves with a two-run double to the right-center-field gap.
Before Martinez recorded his eighth career extra-base hit to cut the Braves' lead to 3-2, Campillo had issued Brian Schneider a four-pitch walk. After throwing a first-pitch ball to the former three-time Cy Young Award winner, the Braves hurler was expecting that his mound counterpart would take until he got a strike.
"I think he surprised him there," said Cox after providing praise for Campillo, who had gone 0-3 with a 6.88 ERA in his previous seven starts.
While this victory was special for Campillo, it's long been obvious that Martinez no longer possesses his previous dominance. The 36-year-old right-hander went 5-2 with a 2.31 ERA in the first seven starts he made against the Braves after joining the Mets before the start of the 2005 season.
In his past four starts against the Braves, Martinez has gone 1-2 with a 7.89 ERA.
"Obviously, everybody knows who he is," Anderson said. "Even though he's not throwing 96 [mph] anymore, he still knows how to get hitters out. I just tried to block that out of my mind when I was facing him."
Currently, it appears Anderson, Gregor Blanco and Jordan Schafer are the top candidates to serve as the Braves' starting center fielder next season. With Blanco hitting just .210 in his past 45 games and Schafer possibly needing some more time in the Minors, Anderson is in position to spend the regular season's final week providing more reason for the Braves to provide him the job.
Anderson's primary asset is his speed, and given that the Braves haven't had a legitimate stolen-base threat since Rafael Furcal, they're certainly willing to look at anybody who can help generate runs with their legs.
"[Anderson] has got to be one of the fastest guys in the game," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "He's as fast as it gets."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.