Braves 9, Nationals 7

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WASHINGTON (AP)—Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones made up for another poor outing by the Braves’ bullpen.

They hit consecutive homers off Chad Cordero with two outs in the ninth inning Sunday to give Atlanta a 9-7 victory over Washington, which had rallied with a five-run eighth after John Smoltz left with tightness in his pitching shoulder.

For Andruw Jones, it was his second homer of the game and 49th of the season. He broke the franchise record of 47 shared by Hall of Famers Hank Aaron (1971) and Eddie Mathews (1953).

“All these records—I already proved what I can do this season. I just want to get it done, help my team, and get back into the World Series,” Andruw Jones said. “There was a bit of frustration, but we came out on top, and that’s what really matters.”

Chipper Jones’ two-run shot off Cordero (2-4) erased a 7-6 deficit for Atlanta—which led 6-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth. Andruw Jones followed by driving an 0-2 pitch to left.

Both came on fastballs, the pitch Cordero has ridden to a franchise-record 44 saves.

“All the guys went out there today and battled all day, and I throw one inning and I blow it,” Cordero said. “I just want to throw stuff. I’m just upset.”

Macay McBride (1-0) earned his first major league victory. He faced one batter, striking out Brian Schneider to end the eighth. Kyle Farnsworth got his sixth save.

Until Jones and Jones brought Atlanta back, it looked as if Washington might actually win a game on an afternoon they trailed 6-0, used eight pitchers, and had four rookies in the starting lineup.

That’s because Atlanta’s bullpen didn’t come through when Smoltz departed after allowing three hits on only 74 pitches over seven innings.

“A blessing for us,” Washington outfielder Ryan Church said.

Church was among the rookies trying to handle Smoltz, along with a player making his first major league start (second baseman Rick Short) and one making his second (third baseman Ryan Zimmerman).

Atlanta has had a revolving door at closer, and its bullpen showed how shaky it can be in the first game of this series, when Washington scored four in the eighth to win.

On Sunday, with the Braves ahead 6-2, Blaine Boyer began the eighth by walking the first two batters. John Foster came on and gave up Brad Wilkerson’s RBI single, then hit Short with a pitch that bounced in the dirt first.

“You’ve got to throw strikes. You’re helpless against walks. There’s no defense against them,” Chipper Jones said. “We have trouble throwing strikes.”

Said Braves manager Bobby Cox: “You can’t do that late in the ballgame.”

Nick Johnson hit a hard shot that bounced off the side of first baseman Adam LaRoche’s head for a two-run single to get Washington within a run. LaRoche was dizzy and left the game, but said he expects to be able to play Monday.

So Foster was replaced by Chris Reitsma. Jose Guillen flied out to deep center, which allowed Short to reach third. Church then hit a sacrifice fly to left, which got Johnson—out of the starting lineup for a week because of a bruised right heel—to second.

Zimmerman, the No. 4 overall pick in June’s amateur draft, lined a 1-2 pitch over the shortstop’s head to score a hobbling Johnson with the go-ahead run.

“It was a good comeback. Stirring,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “We just couldn’t finish it off.”

Julio Franco led off Atlanta’s ninth with a single and, after two flyouts, Chipper Jones came to the plate, figuring he might see a pitch to hit because of the player in the on-deck circle: Andruw Jones.

“I get the benefit from him having a monster year,” Chipper Jones said. “He’s pretty much killed them in every series and he’s the last guy that they want to have at the plate with the game on the line.”

The Braves built their 6-0 lead against a patchwork starter-by-committee operation. First on the mound for Washington was rookie Jason Bergmann, making his first major league start, and he gave up two runs in the first.

Andruw Jones made it 3-0 in the third with his 48th homer, off Travis Hughes.

“He’s totally a star now,” Cox said about his cleanup hitter. “Andruw is putting a lot of guys in his shadow right now.”


Smoltz allowed back-to-back homers by Short and Johnson in the sixth, and Zimmerman’s ground-rule double in the second. His five strikeouts gave him 2,556 for his career, tying Jerry Koosman for 24th place in baseball history. … Braves SS Rafael Furcal stole his 40th base.

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