08/19/2002 7:15 pm ET
Sheffield, Jones lift Atlanta to win
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Faced with the prospect of seeing his team lose its third consecutive game to the Rockies, Braves manager Bobby Cox opted to move from his usual position on the left-hand side of the Braves dugout all the way down to the other end near the first-base bag.
"I wasn't doing us any good where I was standing," Cox said.
Cox's superstitious maneuver proved to be fruitful during the Braves' three-run eighth inning. So after the usually invincible John Smoltz proved mortal in the ninth and allowed the Rockies to take a one-run lead, it was obvious where Cox would sit during the bottom half of the ninth.
Cox's troops, who have won 61 of their past 83 games, have been known to orchestrate a few late-inning comebacks. But the thrilling finish that allowed the Braves to claim a 7-6 victory over the Rockies at Turner Field on Monday afternoon might have been the most dramatic and certainly the most timely of the bunch.
Down one run in the bottom of the ninth, the Braves still had hope knowing that Gary Sheffield and Chipper Jones would be the first two batters, and as it turned out, the only batters that would face Rockies closer Jose Jimenez.
Sheffield, who had two hits in seven career at-bats against Jimenez, knew the right-hander had an effective sinker that had caused him to fall victim on a few occasions.
In addition, Sheffield had received a tip from hitting coach Terry Pendleton regarding Jimenez's delivery. The right-hander seemed to be tipping his fastball and off-speed pitches.
But Sheffield said he really didn't want to know what was coming. He was just determined to get a bat on the ball and get on base in front of Jones.
"If it was low, I knew I probably wasn't going to swing at it because it was probably the sinker," Sheffield said.
So Sheffield looked at three pitches before sending Jimenez's fourth pitch of the at-bat into the left-center-field seats to tie the game at 6. Suddenly, an afternoon that appeared destined for doom began to resemble one of those many successful ones the Braves have enjoyed this season.
"That guy is obviously tough," Jones said of Jimenez. "If you can be patient and wait to get a pitch to hit, you can do some damage."
"I didn't take a hard swing," Jones said. "But I made solid contact."
It was hit well enough to allow some fan in the right-field seats to go home with a tangible memory from Monday's game.
"I guess it's better late than never," Jones said. "It was good to see us battle back."
Heading into the eighth, the Braves hadn't scored a run since their first two batters of the game had crossed the plate. But Jones got things going in the eighth by drilling solo shot off former teammate Justin Speier. Marcus Giles completed the three-run inning with a two-run single, tying the game at 5.
All Smoltz had to do was get three outs and allow his team to determine who was going to be the one that provided the game-winning hit. But the Braves closer, who leads the Majors with 43 saves, gave up back-to-back two-out hits, giving the Rockies their short-lived one-run advantage.
"My goal was to make someone a hero, not to make two people heroes," Smoltz said.
Since Sheffield and Jones proved to be heroic, the Braves can head into their longest road trip of the season that begins on Tuesday in San Diego and includes stops in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Montreal, with a little bit of momentum.
"It's a huge boost," Jones said. "We didn't play well during this homestand. But like individuals, teams are going to struggle and go through peaks and valleys."
Obviously, the Braves would now be considered to be on a peak.
"The way we were playing, we have to be happy to get out of this series with a split," Sheffield said. "What better way to end the series and head into a long road trip than with back-to-back homers."
Mark Bowman covers the Braves for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its