Notes: Chipper a big fan of Andruw's
Third baseman says center fielder should be NL MVP
PHILADELPHIA -- Before Chipper Jones went to the plate to deliver his game-winning two-out, two-run home run in the ninth inning of Sunday's dramatic victory over the Nationals, he had aspirations of taking Chad Cordero deep.
Unlike past years, he knew there was a good chance he would see a fastball. With it being Cordero's top pitch, it was a good assumption. But the assumption also came from the fact that Jones knew the All-Star closer didn't want to walk him and potentially have to face Andruw Jones with the game on the line.
"In the past, [with the count] 2-0, 3-1, I'd see a lot of changeups and sliders," Chipper said. "I got to the point where I was only look offspeed when I was ahead in the count. Now that [Andruw is] having the year that he's having, guys come right at me."
Cordero held true to form, and after falling behind, 2-0, to Chipper, he delivered a fastball that the veteran third baseman drilled off the upper-deck facade in right-center field. One batter later, Cordero threw an 0-2 fastball that Andruw drilled over the left field fence to increase his Major League-leading homer total to 49 and his National League-leading RBI total to 121.
"I get to benefit from him having a monster year," said Chipper of Andruw, who was named the National League Player of the Week on Monday. It marked the second time this year Andruw's earned that honor.
On his way to setting a franchise-record for homers and potentially for RBIs, Andruw has established himself as a top candidate to be named the National League's Most Valuable Player. At the same time, he's also helped Chipper produce some rather impressive numbers. Entering Monday night's game against the Phillies, Chipper was carrying a 10-game hitting streak. Over his previous 36 games, dating back to July 26, he had hit .359 -- the third highest batting average in the Majors during that span.
Despite missing six weeks because of a left foot injury, Chipper has still hit 17 homers and driven in 62 runs. His production has been overlooked, mainly because of the other Jones. But that doesn't seem to bother Chipper at all.
"I couldn't be happier for Andruw, because I know if he wasn't having the type of season that he's having, we very well might not be in first place," Chipper said. "That's the A-No. 1 reason he should win the MVP.
"I've never seeked the spotlight. I just want to do my part to help us win ballgames. I'm proud of him. He's made himself a much better player, and this year, one of the most-feared right-handed hitters in the game."
Smoltz pondering next start: While John Smoltz isn't concerned about the tightness he felt in his shoulder on Sunday, he says there's a chance he might skip his scheduled start against the Mets on Friday.
"I keep talking about it," Smoltz said. "But there comes a point where I'll have to do that, which is [be] smart. The hardest part about pitching is when you feel like you're pitching good, you don't want to miss anything if you don't have to."
Throughout this season, Smoltz has said there might come a time when he'd miss a start. But because he'd never really felt any discomfort in his shoulder or elbow, he hadn't ever reached a point where he felt it would be necessary. Thus, the former closer has surprised many by being able to register 216 2/3 innings in his first full season as a starter since 1999.
Smoltz's decision on whether or not to start will also be determined by how the Braves play over the next few days. If they continue to move closer toward clinching the National League East, he'd be more likely to give his shoulder further rest.
LaRoche feeling better: Adam LaRoche was still feeling some slight dizziness when he arrived at Citizens Bank Park on Monday afternoon. More importantly, he and the Braves were feeling fortunate that the sharply hit ground ball that hit him on the right side of his face on Sunday afternoon hadn't done any major damage.
"He's lucky, because it's like getting hit with a pitch in the head without a helmet," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
While playing first base, LaRoche dove to his left to snare a ball that came screaming off Washington first baseman Nick Johnson's bat. After extending his body, the one-hopper took a nasty turn and struck LaRoche just beside his ear. He still had some swelling in the area on Monday afternoon.
"It might help me get my head back where it belongs," said a smiling LaRoche, who has batted .105 (6-for-57) in his past 18 games.
Cox said he'll evaluate LaRoche over the next few days and determine when it's best to get him back in the lineup.
Coming up: John Thomson (3-4, 4.60 ERA) will oppose Gavin Floyd (1-2, 11.25 ERA) in the second game of a four-game series against the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.