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Jones hits milestone in Braves' win

POSTED: June 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones hits his 400th career home run against the Florida Marlins.

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ATLANTA — A threat to hit 400? Chipper Jones is already there.

The Atlanta Braves slugger hit his 400th career home run Thursday night and finished with four hits in a 7-5 victory over the Florida Marlins, raising his major league-leading batting average to .418.

Jones came out of the dugout for what he said was only the second curtain call of his career as fans cheered his milestone homer in the sixth inning. He became the third switch-hitter to reach 400 home runs, following Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504).

“To be lumped in with those guys is what I’m shooting for,” Jones said. “This is a step closer but still a long, long way from those guys. They set the bar really high.”

Brian McCann gave the Braves a 6-5 lead in the fifth with a two-run shot. Yunel Escobar also connected.
The three homers came off Ricky Nolasco (5-4), who gave up 12 hits and seven runs in 5 2-3 innings, ending his bid for his fifth straight win.

Nolasco noted he is only the latest to give up a homer to Jones.

“He makes you pay when you go over the middle of the plate,” Nolasco said. “I made a mistake and he made me pay.

“He’s been doing it for years, and he’s not going to stop anytime soon.”

Jair Jurrjens (6-3) gave up a season-high 11 hits and five runs in six innings but won as the Braves rallied from a 5-3 deficit. Jurrjens escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth when Nolasco hit into a double play.

Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his third save, one night after Atlanta’s Manny Acosta gave up four runs in the ninth inning to blow a two-run lead. Soriano pitched around Mike Jacobs’ one-out double.

Jones lifted his batting average from .409 to .418 by going 4-for-5 with singles in the first, third and eighth. He hit his 14th homer of the season about 10 rows deep into the right-field seats with two outs in the sixth.

“He never came up in a situation where we could pitch around him,” said Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, a former Braves coach. “He’s sure not missing. He’s locked in. I’ve never seen him this hot for this long.”

Jones paused to admire the blast before beginning his jog around the bases.

“I’m glad it wasn’t a loss so I can enjoy it,” he said. “In no way do I want to show anybody up. ... It was a huge monkey off my back.”

As the video board replayed the homer, fans called Jones out of the dugout.

“That was my second curtain call here in Atlanta,” he said, before reciting details of a three-run homer off the New York Mets’ Al Leiter in 1999.

Only two curtain calls? Jones said that’s fine with him.

“This is a town that’s laid back and it fits my personality,” he said.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said he has seen “every single one” of Jones’ homers.

“He’s quite the player,” Cox said. “He’s one great player, four hits tonight and one was a homer, a stolen base and picked it at third again. He’s just having a fabulous season. Gets better with age.”

The focus now will shift back to Jones’ batting average.

The last time a major leaguer was hitting .418 or better through games of June 5 was in 1994, when Paul O’Neill of the New York Yankees had a .430 average on that date, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The last major leaguer to hit .400 for a season was Boston’s Ted Williams, who batted .406 in 1941.
Florida’s Hanley Ramirez led off the first inning with his third homer in two games.

The Braves had three hits in the first, including Mark Teixeira’s run-scoring single, and took a 3-1 lead with two runs in the third. Escobar led off with a homer to left. Kelly Johnson hit a single to right and scored on Jeff Francoeur’s grounder.

The Marlins took a 5-3 lead with four runs in the fourth. Jacque Jones’ single drove in Dan Uggla for Jones’ first RBI with Florida.

Nolasco fooled the Braves by faking a bunt and then slapping a run-scoring single to right. Jacque Jones scored on McCann’s throwing error on Ramirez’s stolen base, and Jorge Cantu drove in Ramirez with a single — the Marlins’ sixth hit of the inning.

Josh Anderson hit his first major league triple to lead off Atlanta’s fourth and scored when Escobar hit into a double play.

Notes: Chipper Jones also added his first stolen base of the season in the eighth. ... Atlanta LF Greg Norton was a late scratch with a twisted left knee. He is day to day. Anderson was the fill-in starter. ... Phil Falco joined the Braves as the team’s new strength and conditioning coach, replacing Frank Fultz. Falco had been a minor league roving strength and conditioning coordinator. ... The homer by Ramirez was his fourth leading off a game this season and the 19th of his career.



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