ATLANTA --- While other NL contenders beefed up for the playoffs, the Atlanta Braves seemed to keep missing out on players who could have boosted their hopes.
Turns out, they landed the guy they wanted all along.
Atlanta acquired speedy outfielder Michael Bourn from the Houston Astros on Sunday in a five-player deal, giving the Braves their first true leadoff hitter in at least six years.
The Astros received outfielder Jordan Schafer and three minor league pitchers, but the Braves didn't give up any of their top pitching prospects.
"We haven't had that kind of threat in the top of our lineup in a long time," said third baseman Chipper Jones.
Bourn is hitting .303 and leads the majors with 39 stolen bases. He goes from the last-place Astros to a playoff-contending team that has one of baseball's best pitching staffs, but was downright desperate for offensive help because of various ailments and lackluster performances.
Bourn sure fills a need. The Braves haven't had a prototypical leadoff hitter since Rafael Furcal left after the 2005 season.
"I'm excited," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He makes the defense do things they don't want to do. Pitchers are going to throw pitches they don't want to throw."
The Braves, who were beaten 3-1 by the Marlins on Sunday, lead the NL wild-card race by 31/2 games and trail Philadelphia by six games in the East. They had been pursuing an outfielder for weeks, watching as the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence from the Astros and San Francisco landed Carlos Beltran from the Mets.
Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said he asked about both Beltran and Pence but felt Bourn was a better fit. Dan Uggla has bounced back from a dismal first half, lessening the need to acquire a right-handed power hitter.
In addition to Schafer, the Braves parted with right-handers Juan Abreu and Paul Clemens and left-hander Brett Oberholtzer. The 26-year-old Abreu was used in relief at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he went 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA. Clemens, 23, and Oberholtzer, 22, were both starters at Double-A Mississippi.