Jones' sixth-inning walk set up Braves' four-run outburst
Posted: Wednesday October 13, 1999 09:36 PM
Brian Jordan was the beneficiary of Jones' struggle and said "I was fortunate to get the opportunity I got.”
By John Donovan, CNN/SI
ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones is in a monumental hitting slump. Chipper Jones also is playing third base as if somebody’s rolling greased pigs his way.
Chipper Jones is doing a lot of things wrong but, somehow, he always finds a way to have his say. One way or the other, Chipper Jones is going to figure in the outcome of a lot of games.
Wednesday, in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Turner Field, the slugging switch-hitting third baseman of the Atlanta Braves probably did more wrong than he did right. But in one at-bat in the sixth inning, he helped turn an excruciatingly tight game Atlanta’s way and boost the Braves to a 2-0 lead in the first-to-four NLCS.
“You love to see a player compete and battle like that and never give in,” said Atlanta right-fielder Brian Jordan, the most immediate beneficiary of Jones’ sixth-inning mano-a-mano showdown with New York Mets starter Kenny Rogers. “Chipper had a great approach -- he didn’t swing at bad pitches, and I was fortunate to get the opportunity I got.”
There has been a lot of blah-blahing this postseason about opponents pitching around Jones, who smashed 45 home runs in the regular season. The fact is, though, he’s getting pitches to hit.
They may not be ready-to-launch pitches. But, as even Jones will admit, they’re good enough. He’s just not doing much with them.
In 16 at-bats this postseason, Jones is hitting a wimpy .188 without an extra base hit. He’s 0-for-3 so far in the NLCS. His problems, though, go farther back than that.
Ever since he nearly knocked the Mets out of the postseason with four homers in a three-game series in Atlanta from Sept. 21-23, Jones is hitting just .238, with just one extra-base hit, a double. That’s a stretch of 14 games.
And so it was, with all that baggage, Jones stepped to the plate in the sixth inning Wednesday, already 0-for-2 in the game and his team down 2-0.
There was one out and nobody on.
“I was looking for something over the middle that was a little harder than 75 mph,” Jones said. “But he varies [the speed] so much.”
Jones dropped behind 0-1, but worked the count against Rogers to 2-1. He then fouled off four straight pitches before Rogers lost ball three in the dirt. On the 3-2 pitch, Rogers sent a changeup toward Jones, who thought about swinging, saw the ball was a little low and, instead, drew a walk.
It was a nine-pitch sequence that seemed fairly innocuous at the time -- until Jordan came up next, reached out for a 1-0 pitch and smacked an opposite-field two-run home run off the foul-pole screen in right field that tied the score. Andruw Jones singled next, Eddie Perez followed with another two-run blast and the Braves had beaten the Mets for the 11th time in 14 games this season, this one 4-3.
“I think pitchers are going to take a look at our lineup,” Jones joked, “and say I’m the only sure out in the lineup.”
The whole sequence in the sixth was made even more important in the eighth when Jones let a Melvin Mora groundball slip under his glove. Mora scored later on an Edgardo Alfonzo double. The boot was the second error in as many games for Jones, who Tuesday night bobbled several ground balls, though he was charged with just one error.
“It’s terrible. It’s pathetic, to be honest with you,” Jones said of his lack of defense in the first two games of the series. “It’s frustrating. It cost us a run, and it could have cost us a game. The series. You never know.”
Instead, the Braves take the 2-0 series lead to New York’s Shea Stadium for Game 3 on Friday night. It’s a place where Jones hopes, finally in this postseason, to make a difference with his hitting. Given the chance.
“The bottom line is,” Jones said, “you have to take advantage of the mistakes.”
Or, at the very least, don’t make any yourself.