Braves general manager Frank Wren made sound in-season acquisitions by strengthening his outfield with the additions of Nate McLouth and Ryan Church. But the trade that provided Atlanta's lineup the pop that it needed occurred on July 31, when LaRoche was provided a chance to return to the Braves for the first time since the 2006 season.
LaRoche has since played a large role in the late-season surge enjoyed by the Braves. They trail the first-place Phillies by 8 1/2 games in the National League East standings and still remain within five games of the front-running Rockies in the Wild Card chase.
Their presence in these standings has been aided by LaRoche, who, entering Friday, had hit .344 with 12 homers and 30 RBIs in his first 42 games with the Braves.
"When Roachy has an opportunity to drive in runs, he's going to take advantage," Jones said. "You're talking about a guy who could hit 30 home runs in a pitcher's ballpark. That's an impact player."
LaRoche is making $7.05 million this season and it appears that he'll be looking for a similar average annual salary with the deal he'll gain in the free-agent market this offseason.
"I've got six years in the big leagues," LaRoche said. "It's not like I've got 12 years and everything is taken care of back home to the point where I can pick and choose and take a big discount just to play where I love to play."
While the Braves will make a play to keep LaRoche, they may not be able to provide him the kind of money that will keep him in Atlanta past this season. With veteran relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez both possibly departing, they may need to use their available funds to locate a closer, an outfielder and a first baseman.
Further clouding the Braves' plans is the fact that highly regarded prospect Freddie Freeman may be ready to serve as the first baseman at some point during the 2011 season.
LaRoche has already talked to his wife about the future and they've decided that their first choice would come in the form of the opportunity to remain in Atlanta.
"It's not just because I like the city and the guys here," LaRoche said. "It's also because from what I've seen this year, we've got a chance to be really good like we were a few years ago. It isn't often that you get to play in a place where you're comfortable in your family life and also have a chance to be in the playoffs every year."
ATL: RHP Javier Vazquez (13-9, 3.01 ERA)
Vazquez dominated the Cardinals during his second complete-game effort of the season on Sunday. His line -- two earned runs and seven hits -- didn't provide an indication of how impressive he was. Before surrendering four straight singles in a two-run ninth, he had allowed just two hits and thrown 79 pitches. The 33-year-old right-hander has won three successive decisions and allowed a total of two runs in those three victories. Each of the four runs he surrendered against the Phillies on Aug. 16 came via the two homers he allowed to Ryan Howard.
PHI: RHP Pedro Martinez (5-0, 2.87 ERA)
Martinez has been terrific since signing with the Phillies, especially his last outing on Sunday night. In that game, the right-hander threw 130 pitches, 80 for strikes, and exited to a standing ovation at Citizens Bank Park during a 1-0 win over the Mets. Martinez seems to have recaptured the magic he lost with the Mets last season. He had command of all of his pitches and kept the Mets' hitters off balance all night.
Jones returned the Braves' lineup on Friday after missing four successive starts because of a strained left groin muscle. ... Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar was removed after the second inning of Friday night's series opener. ... Martinez surrendered one hit in a rain-shortened two-inning outing against the Braves on Aug. 29.
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Official game notes
640 WGST, Project 9-6-1
Sunday: Braves (Tommy Hanson, 10-3, 2.65) vs. Phillies (Cliff Lee, 14-11, 3.00), 1:30 p.m. ET
Monday: Braves (Derek Lowe, 14-9, 4.53) at Mets (Pat Misch, 1-3, 4.21), 7:10 p.m. ET
Tuesday: Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 12-10, 2.75) at Mets (Nelson Figueroa, 2-6, 5.21), 7:10 p.m. ET