ATLANTA (AP)—When Chipper Jones entered the All-Star break with just 34 RBIs, he was a long shot to reach 100 for the ninth straight season. Now he has a decent chance.
Jones, slowed by a hamstring injury in the first half and hitting only .214 with 12 homers at the break, is batting .346 (28-for-81) in August with 10 homers and 25 RBIs in 21 games. His overall average is up to .251 with 24 homers and 69 RBIs.
“I’m glad we’re approaching the subject that it is within reach,” Jones said of the 100-RBI mark.
“I made a few pitches I’d like to have back,” Francis said. “I will learn from it. It’s an execution thing. I was pretty calm. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I was trying not to get caught up in it.”
Jones, who homered in five straight games from Aug. 13-17, put Atlanta ahead with a two-run homer in the first inning, then hit a three-run drive in the sixth for a 6-1 lead. He came up with the bases loaded and no outs in seventh but popped out against Jeff Fassero.
Jones is 0-for-9 with the bases loaded this season.
“Fassero has pretty much had his way with me throwing fastballs and splitters, and he threw me a slider,” Jones said. “With two homers and five RBI, you can’t be too disappointed with that.”
Jones’ resurgence has sparked the Braves, who are 27-11 since the break, opening an 8 1/2 -game lead over second-place Florida in the NL East.
J.D. Drew went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, one night after he missed a game because he cut his head after batting practice when jumping down the dugout steps.
John Thomson (10-8) gave up one run and five hits in seven innings in his second start against his former team. He didn’t get a decision in an 11-7 win at Colorado on May 1.
“It’s always good to go seven innings and give up only one run, no matter who it’s against,” Thomson said.
Francis, a 23-year-old left-hander who was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft, was the loser, giving up six runs in five innings and striking out eight. He was 16-3 with a 2.27 ERA in the minor leagues this year.
“The young kid is good,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “He has good breaking stuff and was sneaky fast. … When he gets his feet on the ground, he’s going to be dynamite.”
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said the team intentionally scheduled the debut away from Colorado to lessen the pressure.
“He has a lot of tools,” Hurdle said. “He had pretty good command. He had poise. He had good rhythm.”
Francis’ parents, Mike and Joanne Francis, made the trip from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Joanne’s cheers after every strike were easily heard in the ballpark.
“I can’t ever not hear her,” Francis said.
Francis opened by striking out Rafael Furcal, but gave up a two-out single to Drew and Jones’ 23rd homer. He didn’t allow another hit until Marrero homered for a 3-1 lead in the fifth. Jones’ second homer finished Francis’ night.
Francis, who was 0-for-13 as a hitter with Tulsa and Colorado Springs this year, sacrificed in his first plate appearance in the third inning and lined out in the fifth inning. … Chipper Jones has 30 two-homer games. He has never hit more than two in a game. … Colorado had lost four straight road games after losing only four of its previous 17.