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Updated: Friday, September 2, 2005 2:09 AM EDT



  R H E  
Nationals 7 12 0 WP: Davies (7-3)
LP: Ayala (8-7)  
Braves 8 8 1
Andruw Jones powers Braves to extra-inning win

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Andruw Jones continued his push for National League MVP.

Jones led off the bottom of the 10th inning with his major league-leading 44th home run, lifting the Atlanta Braves to an 8-7 victory over the Washington Nationals .

After practically carrying the Braves during the absence of Chipper Jones earlier this season, Andruw Jones has continued to provide big hits following his teammate's return.

Entering Thursday, Andruw Jones had driven in 10 of Atlanta's previous 15 runs, including all five during a 5-3 victory in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader.

In this one, Andruw Jones delivered an RBI groundout during a five-run third inning as the Braves opened a 7-1 lead. After Washington stormed back to knot the game in the seventh on former Brave Vinny Castilla 's second two-run single, Andruw Jones struck the biggest blow in the 10th.

On a 1-2 offering from Luis Ayala (8-7), Andruw Jones launched a shot over the left-center field wall. He pulled into a tie for third place on Atlanta's all-time single-season homer list, just three behind Hank Aaron 's record.

"He's been awesome," said Chipper Jones , who gave the Braves an early lead with a two-run homer in the first inning. "If he didn't go on that spurt while I was on the DL, there's no telling where we are (in the NL East Division). He's far and away the MVP of this league."

"He's carrying the team by himself," said Castilla, a teammate of Andruw Jones from 2002-03. "When Chipper was out, he put the team on his back. You always knew he had all the talent and had all the tools to have an MVP-type season. He beat us in both games (this series)."

The homer also accounted for Andruw Jones ' 18th game-winning RBI of the season, tying fellow All-Stars Miguel Cabrera of Florida and Albert Pujols of St. Louis for first in the NL.

"It's the same feeling all the time," Andruw Jones said. "I want to go out there and win games. I'm just going out there with an idea. (Ayala) threw me a sinker over the plate. It's a thrill to be here, to go out there with a plan to win the game and to do what you have to do."

"He's just had a dynamite year," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Not just numbers, but winning ballgames with his glove and bat both."

It also made a winner of rookie Kyle Davies (7-3), who was recalled from Class AAA Richmond earlier Thursday. The righthander worked three scoreless innings in his second straight relief appearance after beginning his major league career with 13 starts, allowing two hits and a walk with two strikeouts.

Atlanta starter John Smoltz lasted just five innings, surrendering three runs, seven hits and a walk before leaving with a stiff neck.

"It's something that doesn't seem like a big deal for a pitcher," Smoltz said. "It's everything for me. I thought I had it under control. It just never loosened up again. It got increasingly difficult."

Tony Armas Jr., who had lost his previous two decisions, was tagged for seven runs and seven hits in four innings. In addition to the blast by Chipper Jones , Armas served up rookie Jeff Francoeur 's three-run homer in the third that made it 7-1.

However, the Nationals began their comeback in the fourth, when Castilla delivered a two-run single. Three innings later, Washington scored four times against three relievers to draw even.

Jim Brower began the seventh and yielded a leadoff double by Marlon Byrd . One out later, Brad Wilkerson was hit by a pitch, and Jamey Carroll singled with two outs to load the bases.

Brower forced in a run by walking Jose Guillen , and rookie lefthander Macay McBride issued a walk to Nick Johnson to plate Wilkerson. Dan Kolb , who began the season as Atlanta's closer, came on and was greeted by Castilla's single, tying the game at 7-7.

"We're up 7-1, the game should be over," Chipper Jones said. "You can't do that late in the season and in the playoffs and expect to win the game. Andruw's not going to come through every time. Contrary to what some people think, he's not Superman."

Washington second baseman Jose Vidro left the game with right knee inflammation after leading off the fourth inning with a single. He will undergo an MRI on Friday and could be lost for the rest of the season.

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