Chipper unleashes two jacks in win
Third baseman double dips in second consecutive game
ATLANTA -- How good is Chipper Jones going right now?
The veteran third baseman, who is never at a loss for words is, well, at a loss for words.
"I wish I could explain or begin to illustrate to people how awesome the last couple of nights have been," said Jones, who followed up his 4-for-4, three-run Thursday night with a three-for-five, two-run Friday. "It's one of those crazy streaks you get in every couple of years. Not only are you getting pitches to hit, not only are you not missing them, but you're doing ultimate damage with them."
Right now there is no keeping up with -- or a way to pitch to -- this Jones. He left Turner Field on Friday night hitting .455 for the season, having hit in 15 of 16 games he's played -- including 11 straight. Over his last five games he is hitting .591 (13-for-22), with five homers and nine RBIs.
Jones belted a pair of home runs, including a three-run shot in the fifth to break open a close game, and Jeff Bennett pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings as the Braves defeated the Dodgers, 6-1, in the opener of a three-game weekend set on Friday night at Turner Field.
The Braves have now won two in a row for the third time in 2008. The Dodgers saw their two-game winning streak snapped.
On a night when Andruw Jones returned to Turner Field, it was Chipper who stole the show, reminding Braves manager Bobby Cox of days gone by in a land far, far away -- at least far up north.
"I've seen him in New York like this," said Cox, referring to Chipper's single-handed demolition of the Mets at Shea Stadium. "His stroke is so pretty. It always has been. He's having a great start and everybody else is starting to hit, too."
With the Braves up, 2-0, in the fifth, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar walked against Dodgers starter and losing pitcher Derek Lowe (1-1), before Jones belted his 391st career home run to center field on the first pitch. Jones hit No. 392 in the seventh, marking the 38th multi-homer game of his career.
Friday gave Jones four homers over the last two nights, the second time he had back-to-back multi-homer games.
Lowe, who entered the game with a 1.80 ERA, was touched up for five runs -- three earned -- on eight hits. He threw 101 pitches, 58 for strikes, and walked an uncharacteristically high four batters, while striking out only two. The Dodgers' righty came in to Friday night having walked one batter in 20 innings of work, and sporting the second-best strikeouts-to-walks ratio in the Majors, at 16-to-1.
Los Angeles proved as generous in the field as Lowe was with bases-on-balls. In the second inning, the Braves scored twice, despite getting only one ball out of the infield.
The rally started with an error by second baseman Jeff Kent, his first in 28 games. After a Brian McCann double, his first of two hits, Jeff Francoeur gave the Braves the lead with a dribbler that hugged the third-base line, leaving Dodgers third baseman Nomar Garciaparra with no play. After a double play, Gregor Blanco drove in his first Major League run with a sharp bouncer up the middle that Lowe unsuccessfully tried to make a behind-the-back play on.
That was plenty of support for Bennett, who was pitching for the fourth time in six days. In a year that has seen so many surprises with the pitching -- including the shocking announcement of Tom Glavine going on the 15-day disabled list -- Bennett provided a pleasant one.
"I didn't know I was starting today until I looked up on the board and saw my name up there," said Bennett, who had thrown 5 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in four appearances since April 12.
Bennett didn't qualify for the win, but he pitched valiantly, going a season-high 4 2/3 innings, allowing only two hits. He struck out four, including former Brave Andruw Jones twice, and walked three.
"I felt good," said Bennett, who had allowed five earned runs and six hits over four innings in his last two times out. "Coming back from the two outings I'd had previous, I wanted to just let it go a little bit and prove to myself that I'm not out there picking, and just trying to throw strikes. I decided I wanted to go after hitters."
Bennett did just that, getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first by striking out red-hot James Loney and retiring Russell Martin on a fly ball to left, then didn't allow a runner past first until two were out in the fifth. Will Ohman (1-0) came on and struck out Andre Ethier to end the threat and record the win.
The bullpen was superb, as Ohman, Buddy Carlyle, Blaine Boyer and Manny Acosta combined to allow only one run and three hits over the final 4 1/3 innings.
"It was going to be tough tonight, we've got Bennett going against Mr. Turbo sinker, in Lowe," said Jones. "We scratched out a couple of runs, we took advantage of one of their mistakes, and one big swing and we feel pretty good about ourselves."
And the best may be yet to come offensively.
"When [Teixeira] gets going, it will really get fun," said Jones, the National League's batting leader. "Once he starts heating up, the middle of our lineup is not going to be a fun one to pitch to."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.