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Braves feeling Chipper
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10/04/2003  8:10 PM ET 
Braves feeling Chipper
Jones hits two homers in 6-4 victory to force Game 5
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

Chipper Jones rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homer in the eighth inning. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Game 4 wrapup: Braves 6, Cubs 4

CHICAGO -- It was only a matter of time before Chipper Jones and the Braves offense finally displayed some of the firepower that enabled them to enter this postseason with so much hope.

With a no-tomorrow scenario staring the Braves in the face, Jones took advantage of the opportunity to face a Cubs pitcher not named Wood or Prior, and led his team to a necessary 6-4 win in Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon.

The switch-hitting Jones led the Braves' 12-hit attack with a two-homer performance that included one from both sides of the plate. The veteran outfielder came into the game with just one hit in 11 at-bats during the series.

"I've been struggling to get base hits in this series," Jones said. "It was just good to come out and hit a couple of balls on the barrel. If I had been hitting the ball hard, it would have been easier to take. But to be honest with you before today, I only hit one or two balls hard and had nothing to show for it."

Jones, who has hit a homer from both sides of the plate five times in his career, hadn't enjoyed a two-homer playoff performance since making his postseason debut in Game 1 of 1995 Division Series.

"This series has been so well pitched by [the Cubs]," Jones said. "A lot of guys have been coming back to the dugout gratified with just a walk. It's been a very rough series."

But it can be a very gratifying series if Jones and the Braves can find a way to master Kerry Wood in the decisive Game 5 on Sunday night at Turner Field. The Cubs ace allowed just three hits and struck out 11 while earning a Game 1 win.

But Jones believes prayer and having home-field advantage may help the Braves advance to the NLCS to face the Marlins, who knocked the Giants out of the postseason earlier Saturday afternoon.

"We feel comfortable in our own ballpark and hopefully we'll make more adjustments," Jones said. "We've got to put the ball in play more."

Wood and Mark Prior, who earned a complete-game, two-hit Game 3 win, had enabled the Cubs to gain a 2-1 series by handcuffing a Braves offense that had led the NL in virtually every major statistical category this year.

Making the situation even more concerning for the Braves was the fact that they played Saturday's game without the services of Gary Sheffield, who suffered a significant contusion on his left hand when he was hit with a Prior pitch during Friday's game.

But with Sheffield, who says there is a "50-50 chance" he'll play Sunday, out of the lineup, Jones first celebrated his move back into the third spot of the batting order by drilling a two-run, fifth-inning homer off Cubs right-hander Matt Clement. The blast into the left-field seats gave the Braves just their third lead of the series.

"It's more comfortable," Jones said of hitting in the third spot, where he produced a .382 average in 34 at-bats this year. "You know I'm not a cleanup hitter. I'm a highly paid bodyguard for Sheffield right now. I don't like particularly hitting there, but our team does better with him hitting [third]. I don't wish Sheffield out of the lineup ever, but any chance I get to hit there, I certainly love it."

In the eighth inning against left-hander Mark Guthrie, Jones turned around to the right side of the plate and deposited his second two-run homer of the day that gave the Braves a 6-2 lead and ensured Russ Ortiz's effort would not go to waste.

"The ball seemed like it was carrying pretty good late in the game to left field," Jones said. "I was just happy to look out there and see some people reaching for it."

Ortiz, who led the NL with a career-best 21 wins, rebounded from a Game 1 loss and proved that he was capable of pitching on three days' rest. He tossed 88 pitches, while limiting the Cubs to two earned runs on seven hits in five innings.

After Eric Karros hit the first of his two homers of the game in the sixth inning, Braves manager Bobby Cox lifted Ortiz and received a strong effort from his bullpen.

The only previous time in his career that Ortiz had come back one day early was on April 7 this year when he tossed seven scoreless innings against the Marlins, who will await the winner of Sunday's game in Atlanta to determine their NLCS opponent.

"Today I didn't feel any different than I normally do," Ortiz said. "It's good to know that I can come back on three days' rest and be able to do that."

Braves manager Bobby Cox has brought a pitcher back on three days' rest 19 times during the postseason. His team has gone 7-12 in those games, with John Smoltz having earned three of those wins.

Smoltz, who blew a save opportunity before earning the win in Game 2, allowed one run and survived a scare when Sammy Sosa's potential game-tying home run was caught on the warning track by Andruw Jones to end the game. The closer, who has a Major League-record 13 postseason wins, has saved four playoff games since moving to his current role three years ago.

"I challenged him with what I had and he swung with what he had," Smotlz said. "Fortunately, he hit it off the end of his bat."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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