ANAHEIM, Calif (AP)—The Atlanta Braves got quite a scare before their first game at Angel Stadium when major league batting leader Chipper Jones was scratched because of a bizarre batting practice accident.
Somehow, they still came up with enough offense to beat Jon Garland.
Gregor Blanco was 3-for-4 with two RBI singles and the Braves beat Los Angeles 5-2 on Friday night in their first meeting at the Big A. Jeff Francoeur and Omar Infante—Jones’ replacement at third base—had RBI doubles as part of Atlanta’s 15-hit assault.
“We’re a team, and it’s not always going to be Chipper Jones,” Blanco said. “Each day everybody tries to do something for the team. Tonight it was me and Infante and the bottom of the lineup. Tomorrow it will be somebody else.”
Jones, hitting .414 with 15 homers and 41 RBIs, fouled off a pitch while taking his last round of BP and the ball ricocheted off the crossbar at the top of the batting cage, striking him just under his left eye. The five-time All-Star suffered a contusion and was taken for a CT scan, which was negative. He returned to the clubhouse in the ninth inning.
“I didn’t know it was going to take three hours to get an X-ray,” Jones said. “They put me through all the tests, and I’m just experiencing a little blurred vision in close. Other than that, I’m fine.
“The first thing that flashed into my mind was when I was 9 or 10 years old, when I saw a kid hit a foul ball off his eye and he lost his eye. But it got me just below the eye. I’ve been sucker-punched a few times there, so I can take it. I hope that I don’t have a big old fat shiner tomorrow.”
Jones was eagerly anticipating this series against the AL West champions. The only time he ever played in this ballpark was during the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
“It’s a great place to play and a great place to hit,” Jones said after the game. “You want to play a good team like the Angels and kind of strut your stuff. You don’t get to play those guys every day, so we wanted to see how we stacked up against them.”
Manager Bobby Cox knew he had dodged a bullet with Jones, and said he would be back in the lineup Saturday night.
“He wanted to play, but the doctor wouldn’t let him,” Cox said. “When he came back, he said `I’m ready to pinch-hit if it goes extra innings.’ But with head injuries and eye injuries, you can’t do it. It’s got to be checked. But nothing’s broken, so he’s good to go tomorrow.”
Jo-Jo Reyes (3-4) allowed two runs and five hits over eight innings with five strikeouts and two walks. The left-hander, who was born in nearby West Covina and lives in Riverside, Calif., retired 14 of his last 16 batters after the Angels took a 2-1 lead on Howie Kendrick’s two-out RBI double in the third.
Jeff Bennett pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save for the Braves, who came in a major league-worst 7-24 on the road.
Garland (6-4) gave up five runs and 12 hits in 5 2-3 innings and struck out four. The right-hander was 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA over his previous seven starts.
The bottom of the Atlanta batting order regained the lead for the Braves in the fourth. Brandon Jones singled with two outs and scored on a double by Infante, who started at third base for the sixth time this season. Blanco, batting ninth, put Atlanta back in front 3-2 with an RBI single.
“I felt good and I was throwing strikes,” Garland said. “It seemed like they hit some seeing-eye balls in the infield. A couple of fly balls to right-center didn’t seem like they were hit too well. But it happens. It rolled their way this time.”
Seven of Atlanta’s hits against Garland came with two outs, including an RBI single in the second inning by Brandon Jones that opened the scoring. The Angels tied it in the bottom half when Torii Hunter lined Reyes’ first pitch of the inning over the fence in left-center for his ninth home run.
Cox managed against the Angels in Anaheim for the first time since July 14, 1985 with Toronto, when Brian Downing’s two-run walkoff homer with two outs in the ninth gave the Angels a 5-3 victory.
The only other interleague series the Angels and Braves played was in June 2005 at Turner Field, when Chipper Jones was on the disabled list with an injured left foot and the Braves lost two of three. … 3B Chone Figgins, who missed 33 of the Angels’ previous 34 games because of an injured right hamstring, was 1-for-2 with two walks in his first game back after completing his second stint on the DL. … Cox was 24-24 against the Angels during his four seasons as Toronto’s manager, and 10-14 at the Big A. … Braves 1B Mark Teixeira, who made his big league debut at Angel Stadium in 2003 with Texas, came in batting .232 with nine homers in 142 at-bats at the Big A. He was 3-for-5.