LOS ANGELES (AP)—Andruw Jones was awesome in March and awful in April. He’s back to being terrific in May.
Chipper Jones and Adam LaRoche also homered and Tim Hudson pitched six effective innings as the NL East-leading Braves won for the 10th time in 14 games, extending their lead over second-place Florida to 2 1/2 games.
The Joneses each homered for the second straight game. They’ve done so three times this season and 43 times overall. The Braves are 37-6 in those games.
“It’s just good to get a home run,” Andruw Jones said with a smile. “I’m seeing the ball pretty good, getting pitches to hit.”
Andruw Jones hit .413 with 10 homers in spring training, but got off to a horrible start in the regular season, going hitless in 28 at-bats at one stage. But he turned things around in late April, and has 25 hits in 56 at-bats with seven homers in his last 14 games to raise his batting average from .187 to .293.
“I was putting pressure on myself,” he said. “I’m just relaxing, letting it happen.”
Regarding his difficult start, he said: “It’s a long season, you just have to keep battling. Life is not easy, period—off the field, on the field. You’ve just got to try to enjoy it even if you’re not doing well.”
He gave the Braves a 3-2 lead in the seventh by hitting a full-count pitch from Wilson Alvarez (1-1) into the lower seats in the left-field corner for his ninth homer of the season.
The Braves had tied it off Scott Erickson in the sixth on a leadoff single by Hudson and a two-out, two-run homer by Chipper Jones, his seventh of the year.
“That tandem right there is one of the best, and it’s been like that for years,” Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley said. “Andruw started off slow, but now he’s hot, and Chipper’s hot.”
The Braves added two runs off Yhency Brazoban in the ninth when LaRoche hit his sixth homer, Andruw Jones doubled, moved to third on a fly ball by Johnny Estrada and scored on Ryan Langerhans’ sacrifice fly.
Brazoban served as Los Angeles’ closer all season until All-Star Eric Gagne was activated from the disabled list on Saturday night.
Hudson (4-2), constantly pitching out of trouble, allowed nine hits and two runs while walking two, hitting a batter and striking out five.
“Today wasn’t that pretty from my standpoint, but it was enough to get the job done,” Hudson said.
Dan Kolb, the fourth Atlanta pitcher, worked the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances.
The Dodgers lost for the fourth time in five games to fall out of first place in the NL West for the first time since April 28. They are in third place, a half-game behind San Diego and a game in back of first-place Arizona.
“We haven’t played particularly well over the past week,” Bradley said. “We’ve had to rely on the dramatic every time. When you do things fundamentally sound and get guys home, you can win without all the hoopla. Every little mistake gets compounded by not executing when we get out opportunities.”
The Dodgers scored in the second inning on a two-out double by Ricky Ledee and an RBI single by Hee-Seop Choi, and made it 2-0 by scoring an unearned run in the fourth. Bradley beat out a grounder to deep short, took second on Rafael Furcal’s throwing error, and came home on a single by Ledee.
Erickson, who entered with a 7.26 ERA in 31 innings, allowed just three hits and two runs in six innings. He retired the first 11 batters before Chipper Jones hit a two-out single in the fourth.
The first two Los Angeles batters reached base in the third, fourth and sixth, but Hudson allowed a total of just one run in those innings.
The game was played before a crowd of 53,239—the seventh sellout at Dodger Stadium this season. … Atlanta LHP Mike Hampton, who came out of Saturday night’s 5-1 victory by the Braves in the third inning because of stiffness in his left forearm, doesn’t expect to miss a turn. “It’s something I’ve experienced in my past,” he said. “We’ll treat it and I’ll be ready for my next start.” Hampton, scheduled to pitch Friday night at Boston, is 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA. … Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said that LHP Odalis Perez, who allowed three runs in six innings Saturday night, will undergo a precautionary MRI on Monday because of tightness in his pitching shoulder. … Chipper Jones has hit all 317 of his homers under manager Bobby Cox, leaving him three shy of tying the record for most homers under one manager to start a career. Mickey Mantle hit his first 320 homers under Casey Stengel. … Dodgers SS Cesar Izturis had his NL-leading 18th multi-hit game of the season.