Braves 6, Giants 1
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—When Chipper Jones took his first major league swing in six weeks, he felt a sharp discomfort in his injured foot. With his second swing, he hit a pain-free 440-foot homer through a biting San Francisco wind.
Chipper Jones proved he’s back on the same night that Andruw Jones showed he’s better than ever—and midway through a key road trip, the Atlanta Braves are warming to their chances for yet another playoff spot.
Andruw Jones hit a pair of two-run homers and Chipper Jones also homered in his first at-bat since early June, leading the Braves to a 6-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Monday night.
In pitcher Mike Hampton’s groan-inducing words in the Braves’ clubhouse after the game, the Giants simply couldn’t keep up with these Joneses. They staked Atlanta to a five-run lead in the first three innings—even after manager Bobby Cox juggled the lineup to put Chipper in the fifth spot behind Andruw for the first time in the longtime teammates’ careers.
“I was seeing the ball pretty good, and it’s great to have Chipper back out there,” Andruw Jones said. “I was kind of surprised he was hitting behind me … but we have to do it wherever we are. We’re starting to get our main guys back from injuries, and he’s a big part of it.”
Andruw Jones connected in the first and third innings off Kevin Correia (1-1), driving both pitches deep into the left-field stands for the 25th multihomer game of his career. Jones, who homered off Kenny Rogers in last week’s All-Star game, got his first two homers since the break to stay on pace for one of the most impressive power seasons in the Braves’ franchise history.
But Chipper Jones’ solo homer was just as noteworthy for the Braves, who have three wins on their 10-game post-break road trip.
The five-time All-Star was activated from the disabled list before the game after missing the previous 37 games with a partially torn ligament in his left foot, which caused minor discomfort several times during the night. But he followed Andruw Jones’ two-run shot in the first with a drive to right-center— usually the toughest power spot in a pitcher-friendly park.
“I just felt like I could handle anything they threw up there,” Chipper Jones said. “I’ve been like a caged lion for the last couple of weeks. It’s crazy. The pain isn’t all the way gone, but they can’t keep me on the sidelines any longer.”
The homer snapped Chipper Jones’ 0-for-18 slump—the second-worst of his career, behind an 0-for-23 skid in 2000. Jones, batting fifth in Atlanta’s lineup for the first time since 1995, went 1-for-4 before Wilson Betemit replaced him in the eighth.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Cox, who got his 1,700th victory with Atlanta. “We thought about keeping him down in the minors longer (on a rehab assignment), but he may as well get his at-bats up here. I guess it paid off tonight.”
Jones’ return capped three encouraging days for the Braves, who are finally emptying their crowded injury list. Starting pitchers Tim Hudson and Hampton returned last weekend.
Jorge Sosa (5-1) labored through six innings, but remained unbeaten since June 23. Though he gave up just one run, Sosa allowed six hits and four walks while repeatedly escaping trouble.
After two strong starts earlier in the month, Correia faltered against the Jones combination. The right-hander allowed six hits and five runs over four innings before getting lifted for a pinch-hitter.
“I pretty much deserved both of (Andruw Jones’ homers),” Correia said. “When you make pitches like that, they usually go over the fence, and it looks bad. I have to be better than that.”
The game wasn’t all bad news for San Francisco: Kirk Rueter, the veteran left-hander banished to the bullpen after three mostly dismal months, allowed just one hit and one run in five strong relief innings.
“He could have pitched 15 innings like that,” Giants manager Felipe Alou said of Rueter’s first regular-season appearance from the bullpen since April 2000. “Very economical. We want to leave him in there and have him enjoy that ride.”
Rueter, normally the Giants’ most affable player, refused to speak to reporters.
Barry Bonds, who visited his teammates last weekend in Los Angeles, remained in Southern California for more rehabilitation on his troublesome knee. Alou still has no timetable for the slugger’s return. … Ray Durham, the Giants’ oft-injured second baseman, left in the fifth inning with a bruised left heel. … San Francisco had its 12th sellout of the season, drawing 42,277 fans to watch the NL’s two winningest teams over the last five years.