SAN FRANCISCO — Birthday boy Chipper Jones wasn’t certain it was smart to be back in the lineup on Sunday with his sore right knee, but felt he needed to play.
The Braves were glad he did, since the 39-year-old’s two-run double in the first inning accounted for their only scoring for the first six innings of a wild 9-6, 10-inning Braves win that clinched a sweep of the Giants.
The veteran third baseman was out of the lineup Saturday because of soreness in his right knee, not the knee that was surgically repaired in August.
“I was OK [during Sunday's game],” he said. “It started to get a little sore there at the end.” I’ve got some kind of bursitis or bursa sac in my right knee that’s inflamed. But it felt better the last two days. I got treatment the last two days, and it certainly felt better today than it did yesterday.”
Saturday marked just the third game this season that he didn’t start, and the first because of injury.
While he worked on a crossword puzzle at a table in the visitor’s clubhouse, 2-1/2 hours before the game, he was asked if the knee felt any better.
“Not really. I haven’t moved around at all yet,” Jones said. “But it felt a little better from a standpoint of the treatment I had on it.
“It’s probably risky out there on that wet track, but I think I need to be in there today.”
It had been a drizzly and foggy morning, but was sunny and breezy by game time.
Jones has traditionally hit well on his birthday, and Sunday was no different. He went 2-for-3 with two walks to raise his career average in 12 birthday games to .435 with four home runs and 12 RBIs, including a two-homer game in 2001.
The Braves improved to 10-2 in games that Jones has played on his birthday.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Saturday that he hoped Jones would be ready to play Sunday, so he wouldn’t have his No. 3 and 4 hitters, Jones and catcher Brian McCann, out of the lineup at once.
McCann has a scheduled day off Sunday, but entered the extra-inning game as a pinch-hitter and went 1-for-2 with an RBI single in the 10th inning.
Jones said it was special to not just to play on his 39th birthday, but contribute to a winning club.
“I see it as doing my job,” he said. “It’s been my job for the last 18 years. I’ve had to listen to a lot of crap. It’s gratifying to be out there and contributing to our ballclub. I knew that I could, but it’s a little bit of a renaissance, I guess, to come back out at 39, after 18 years, and reprove yourself to the people that have been behind you for so long.
“It’s gratifying to come back from the injury, No. 1, as quickly as I did. No. 2, to be helping this club win some ballgames.”
Gonzo gets a rest, Hicks a start
Rookie Brandon Hicks made his first major league start in place of shortstop Alex Gonzalez so the veteran could get his first day off this season.
At least that was the plan.
Hicks got the start and played six innings, but Gonzalez entered as a pinch-hitter in a seventh-inning double switch and played the rest of the game at shortstop.
“He’s played every inning of every game,” Gonzalez said of Alex prior to Sunday’s game. “We need to give him a little breather. He hasn’t missed a game. Doubleheader, day game after night game, he’s played them all.”
Hicks, 25, said he did a double-take when he walked past the lineup card posted on the clubhouse wall, about an hour after he arrived at AT&T Park. The manager hadn’t told him the night before that he might be starting, perhaps so he wouldn’t have too much time to think about it.
“Probably a good idea,” Hicks said, smiling.
The rookie went 0-for-2 with two groundouts and a walk and is 0-for-6 for the season.
Before Sunday, Hicks had played in five games and only had four plate appearances, all as a pinch-hitter. He has always been a strong defensive player, and Hicks won a roster spot in spring training largely because of improved hitting.
Heyward towers against Giants
Jason Heyward went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in his first game against San Francisco last season as a rookie. But since then, the right fielder has been huge against the Giants.
Heyward had a mammoth three-run homer in a three-hit day — his first three-hit game of the season – to make him 13-for-30 (.433) with three homers and six walks in his past nine regular-season games against the Giants.
The weekend sweep helped the Braves and Heyward get the bad taste from their mouths after last week’s 3-1 series loss at Los Angeles. Heyward was 0-for-14 in that series to make him 3-for-42 (.071) in his career against the Dodgers, who’ve handled him like no other team.