With their star third baseman back in the lineup, the Atlanta Braves are hoping they still have time to make a run at the NL wild card.
Jones looks to help the Braves build on an exhausting win as they continue their three-game series with the Washington Nationals Saturday at RFK Stadium.
Jones returned Friday after missing three games with a strained right oblique and went 3-for-5 in their 13-inning, 8-5 win. The star third baseman, who had a game-tying double in the ninth, is 22-for-54 (.407) with five homers in 14 games against Washington this season.
He is batting .333 with a team-high 25 homers and 87 RBIs overall in 2007.
“It feels good enough that I know I’m not going to put myself in jeopardy of missing the rest of the season,” Jones told the Braves’ official team Web site before the game. “The other day, I didn’t feel that way.”
Jeff Francoeur hit a two-run, bases-loaded single in the 13th for the Braves (75-72), who have won five of their last eight games.
With Jones out of their lineup, the Braves dropped two of three in a crucial series with the NL East-leading New York Mets. The Braves are 64-55 when Jones plays and 11-17 without him.
Friday’s win kept the Braves 4 1/2 games behind San Diego for the NL wild card lead, though three other teams are in front of them in the race. Atlanta has all but conceded the NL East race—the team is 8 1/2 games behind the Mets and three behind second-place Philadelphia.
“We’re still fighting. Every ballgame means an awful lot to us,” manager Bobby Cox said. “We can’t afford any losses at all hardly down the stretch—a couple maybe, but we need to run the table.”
At 5 hours, 13 minutes, Friday’s game—which started after a 16-minute rain delay—was the longest by time for the Nationals (65-82) at RFK since they moved to Washington from Montreal before the 2005 season. The game opened the final homestand at the aging ballpark before the Nationals move to a new stadium next season.
The Braves have won six of their last seven games against the Nationals, but are just 3-4 at RFK this season. They are 12-13 in Washington since the Nationals moved there.
Ronnie Belliard and Ryan Zimmerman homered Friday for Washington, which fell back to .500 (36-36) at RFK. The Nationals have dropped three straight overall and five of seven since a five-game winning streak.
On Saturday, Washington starter Jason Bergmann (4-5, 4.31 ERA) will square off against Atlanta’s Lance Cormier (2-5, 6.60) for the second time in a week. Bergmann allowed three runs in six innings to earn a 7-4 win in Atlanta on Sunday, while Cormier yielded four runs in six innings and was saddled with the loss.
Ryan Church hit a go-ahead three-run homer off Cormier in the sixth inning, ending the right-hander’s two-start winning streak. Cormier fell to 3-4 with a 6.84 ERA in nine career appearances—four starts—against the Nationals franchise.
Meanwhile, half of Bergmann’s six career wins have come against the Braves— he is 3-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 12 career outings, including six starts, against them. In four starts against Atlanta this season, Bergmann is 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA.
The right-hander has won his last two starts and owns a 3.32 ERA in three starts since a stint on the disabled list with left hamstring tightness.
“It was a good performance. I kept the team in the game. I gave them six innings of pretty good baseball,” Bergmann told the Nationals’ official team Web site. “The curveball was much better today.”