Braves 6, Rangers 5
ATLANTA (AP)—Andruw Jones watched most of the game from the bench. His shoulder was aching. His knee and ankle were sore, too.
Then, in the eighth inning, he made himself feel a lot better.
“A home run seldom happens in that situation, but Andruw is having a special year,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
Jones, who didn’t start for the second game in a row because of those nagging injuries, hit the first pinch-hit homer of his career. He was 2-for-27 in that role before connecting on an 0-2 pitch from Urbina.
Jones missed the first pitch and barely fouled off the second one. He hit the next one an estimated 406 feet into the centerfield stands for his 14th homer of the season.
“He threw me two sliders and I took a gamble that he would throw another slider,” said Jones, wearing an ice pack on his right shoulder after the game. “I don’t feel 100 percent physically, but I’m trying to do the best I can to help the team.”
It was an appropriate finish to a game matching the top home-run teams in each league.
After the Braves rallied to tie it, Texas went ahead again in the top of the eighth, taking advantage of Atlanta’s shaky middle relief.
Roberto Hernandez walked two before giving way to Ray King, who gave up a bloop single to left-center by Hank Blalock. Darren Bragg, who started in place of Jones, double-pumped on the throw home, and Einar Diaz got a foot on the plate before Henry Blanco made the tag.
In the bottom half, Urbina (0-2) entered with one out and a runner at second. He retired Vinny Castilla on a grounder to shortstop. Bragg, who had struck out three times in a row, was due up next, but Jones emerged from the dugout.
“Bobby asked me before game if I was ready to pinch hit,” Jones said. “I told him I felt great.”
John Smoltz worked a scoreless ninth for his major league-leading 21st save in 22 chances. He gave up two hits, but retired pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra on a flyout to deep left with runners at first and third.
“That’s one of the most devastating ways to lose a game,” Rodriguez said.
The Rangers struck quickly against Russ Ortiz, but the Atlanta starter recovered to pitch six innings. He knew the Braves—who lead the National League in homers—could bounce back from the four-run deficit.
“That’s how I went about it,” Ortiz said. “After the first, I told myself to go out there and do my job, which is put up zeros. Give us a chance, at least.”
Atlanta didn’t waste any time coming back, scoring three runs in the second on a pair of two-out hits. Blanco, filling in for the injured Javy Lopez, doubled home two runs, and Ortiz helped his cause with an RBI single.
The Braves tied it in the third on Castilla’s run-scoring single.
Texas starter Ismael Valdez was denied his fourth straight win since coming off the DL. He went seven innings, giving up nine hits and four runs.
“I left a couple of pitches over the plate, and it hurt me,” he said.
The opener of the interleague series drew 30,444 to Turner Field, far above the team’s weekday average of 23,986. The turnout was bolstered by Rodriguez and the Rangers’ first Atlanta appearance.
A-Rod went 0-for-4 as Texas lost its fourth in a row. He struck out in the first with two runners on, then hit into that double play in the eighth with two aboard.
“I had an opportunity to put the game away,” he said, “but I didn’t do it.”
The Braves avoided their first three-game losing streak since Montreal sweptthe season-opening series at Turner Field.
Atlanta SS Rafael Furcal had the 100th stolen base of his career in the fourth inning. … The Braves averaged 20,706 for their first three Tuesday night games of the season. … The only weekday games to draw larger crowds this season were opening day (40,244) and Memorial Day (33,455). … Texasdropped to 2-5 on its 12-game road trip, the longest of the season.