ATLANTA — Chipper Jones used a pregame meeting to ask his Atlanta Braves teammates for an intense start to a long homestand.
The ninth inning may have provided more tension than Jones had expected.
Yunel Escobar hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the bottom of ninth, giving the Atlanta Braves a 4-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night after blowing a lead in the top of the inning.
The Braves, coming off a 6-2 road trip that included series wins over Florida, Philadelphia and the New York Mets, opened a 10-game homestand with the worst home record in baseball.
Jones, who hit his fourth homer, said the Braves improved to 6-9 at Turner Field by maintaining some of the passion they showed on the successful trip.
“It always helps when the guy who’s calling the meeting goes out and leads by example,” Jones said.
“Hopefully it’s something to build on. We started it on the road and we want to keep it going, he added. “If you can’t keep the home-field advantage and have it be an advantage for you, it’s going to be a long year. We’ve got to win ballgames here.”
Jones’ third-inning homer gave the Braves a 3-2 lead that held until closer Mike Gonzalez (2-0) gave up a tying homer to Stephen Drew to lead off the ninth. It was the third blown save in nine chances for Gonzalez.
“We had every opportunity to tuck our tails after the top of ninth and just fold up the tent and lose this game but we didn’t,” Jones said.
With one out in the ninth, Jordan Schafer hit a single to right off Tony Pena (3-1). Pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson walked and Omar Infante singled to center. Schafer, who hesitated between second and third to see if center fielder Chris Young would catch the ball, had to hold at third.
Then Escobar’s fly to center allowed the speedy Schafer to score the winning run without a slide.
“We had just enough chances to score,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “And we did.”
Jones’ drive was the Braves’ sixth homer of the season at Turner Field, the low home total for any team in the majors. It was the ninth homer allowed by Doug Davis this season.
The loss was the fourth straight and seventh in eight games for Arizona, which opened a 10-game road trip.
“It was a tough loss,” said Arizona manager A.J. Hinch, who turned 35 Friday. “We’re playing better.”
Javier Vazquez struck out 10 in seven innings as the Braves took their fifth win in six games.
Vazquez gave up five hits and two runs in seven innings. He gave up two runs in the first and then allowed only one baserunner as far as second the next six innings.
Felipe Lopez hit Vazquez’s first pitch up the middle for a single and scored on Gerardo Parra’s triple to right. Parra scored on Justin Upton’s groundout for a 2-0 lead.
The Braves took advantage of a throwing error by Davis to tie it in the second. Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur opened the inning with singles. Casey Kotchman followed with a grounder to Davis, whose low throw skipped past first baseman Josh Whitesell for an error, allowing McCann to score. Francoeur scored on Schafer’s grounder.
Davis gave up four hits and three runs — two earned — in six innings and, according to Hinch, was upset at being removed for a pinch hitter in the seventh after throwing only 80 pitches.
“He wanted the ball,” Hinch said. “It’s an emotional game. But guys have to understand we’re trying to go for the win. I’m confident with the decision. It’s part of being in this chair. ... I don’t fault him for being frustrated.”
Davis was not available for comment.
Notes: Hinch said OF Conor Jackson, who was placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday with what the team called “general illness,” is feeling better and no longer has a fever. ... The Braves moved LHP Jo-Jo Reyes to the bullpen and plan to call up RHP Kris Medlen from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Tuesday night against Colorado. ... Arizona minor league OF Agustin Murillo, who was at Triple-A Reno, was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.