09/26/2002 00:13 am ET
Three cheers for Andruw Jones
By Travis Hill / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- It was 1995, and he was playing Class-A ball in Georgia, but Damian Moss remembers it like it was yesterday.
"I played with Andruw in Danville, Macon, Durham and Greenville," Moss said. "I saw him hit three one night in Macon. It was against Hickory -- I remember that one."
That night in Macon was the only time Andruw Jones had ever hit three home runs as a professional -- until Wednesday, when he turned a drab game in Philadelphia into another night to remember.
Jones launched three home runs on Wednesday night for the first time in his Major League career, and in typical Jones fashion, he did it in style.
He finished the game 3-for-4, driving in four runs and scoring three, as the Braves dismantled Philadelphia, 7-1. The homers were Nos. 33, 34 and 35 on the season for Jones and brought his RBI total to 93.
In the third inning of Tuesday night's 5-3 loss, Jones chased down a Marlon Anderson line drive destined for the gap, laying out and snaring the ball at the last second.
After that game, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox and the rest of the Braves were shocked at Jones' spectacular play.
On Wednesday, the talk was again about their center field wizard -- only this time for his awesome display of power.
"When he gets hot like that, he hits home runs in bunches," said Moss, who started Wednesday's game and was the beneficiary of Jones' power burst. "He's amazing."
Cox was all smiles, marveling at the potential of the 25-year-old phenom.
"When he stays on the ball," Cox said, "there is no one better."
Looking back, the tell-tale signs were there for Jones to have a huge night. He has been having a excellent September; coming into Wednesday night's game, Jones was hitting .333 with five homers and 13 RBIs.
On Sept. 7, he crushed two homers in a game against the Expos. Three days later, he did it again, getting two off the Mets for his fourth two-homer game of the season.
After the Montreal game, Jones admitted that he and Chipper Jones had talked about getting three in a game.
"We were just talking about it," Andruw said sheepishly. "It was the day I hit two in Montreal. We were just talking, and he said, 'One of us has to hit three.'"
Then, in batting practice before Wednesday's contest, hitting coach Terry Pendleton jokingly said that Andruw was going to get a couple of homers.
The joke, of course, was on the Phillies.
After Myers had retired the Braves in order in the first inning, Placido Polanco hit a solo homer off Moss to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead.
Jones led off the second inning for Atlanta. The first pitch he saw from Myers was down and away, and Jones, a notorious free-swinger, went after it. The ball exploded off Jones' bat and quickly landed over the wall in left-center field.
Myers was surprised that Jones took him deep on the pitch.
"I thought it was a good pitch, and he went out and got it," Myers said. "On 0-0, I'm just trying to get ahead with a strike. I liked where it was, and I guess he did, too."
Jones actually agreed with Myers.
"It was a pretty good pitch," Jones said. "It was kind of away."
Not away enough. Just as the pitch that Jones saw in the fourth inning wasn't down enough.
Jones led off the fourth inning as well and brought with him a case of déjà-vu. Myers worked the count to 2-1 and tried to keep the next pitch down on Jones, but he jumped all over it and sent a screaming line drive over the wall in left field.
Pat Burrell was manning left for the Phils, and he had barely turned around before the ball was over the fence.
Philadelphia manager Larry Bowa tried a different strategy with Jones in the sixth, and surprisingly, it worked. He kept left-hander Hector Mercado in the game to face the right-handed Jones, and Mercado struck him out on three pitches.
Jones swung at every one, and each time came up empty.
But in the eighth, Bowa crossed himself up. He had left-handed reliever Dan Plesac in to face Chipper Jones, and he walked him, bringing up Andruw. So Bowa went to the bullpen and summoned right-hander Jose Santiago.
Santiago proved to be no match for the locked-in Jones, who took a 1-1 offering out to left-center again, completing his hat trick.
"That last [pitch] was probably a mistake," Jones said. "He left it out, over the middle."
The two-run bomb completed the home run hat trick for Jones and brought up a name from Atlanta Braves past. The last time an Atlanta hitter had gone deep three times in a game was on July 12, 1992, when Jeff Blauser did it in Wrigley Field against the Cubs.
Cox remembered that day. "'Home Run Blauser,'" he chuckled.
Jones nearly had a chance to get a fifth at-bat on Wednesday, and a chance to go for his fourth homer.
With two outs and Wes Helms on second and Keith Lockhart on third, Chipper Jones came to the plate to face Santiago.
"In normal circumstances, Chipper walks there," Cox said. "But not when the guy behind him has hit three home runs."
Indeed, Bowa had Santiago pitch to Jones. In the Atlanta dugout, Cox was having some fun, telling Andruw that he might get his chance for four.
"He said they were going to walk Chipper," Jones said. "I said, 'Really? You think so?' But he was laughing, and they didn't."
Chipper saved Santiago the challenge of having to face Andruw by grounding out to second.
But no one will remember that last at-bat. They will, however, remember another amazing performance by Andruw Jones.
Travis Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.