DENVER – After being accused by Rockies pitcher Jamie Moyer of stealing signs during Saturday night’s game, Braves third baseman Chipper Jones acted like anything but a lion in winter.
He roared all right – and kept roaring Sunday morning, lashing out at Moyer for questioning Jones’ integrity.
But Jones also showed again how much hitting ability he retains, driving in five runs with his third consecutive three-hit game to help the Braves rally from a 6-0 deficit for a 13-9 win Saturday.
“It got us all motivated. He woke a sleeping giant,” Jones said. “We didn’t do much before that point, and after that point I believe we scored 11 run. Everybody [on the Braves] knew what was going on.”
Jones was at second base after hitting an RBI double in the fifth inning that cut the lead to 6-2. Television cameras showed Jones and Moyer exchange words while Moyer stood the mound, set to throw a 3-and-0 pitch to Brian McCann. Jones said the 49-year-old left-hander accused him of relaying the catcher’s sign to McCann.
“What incenses me is that I’m having a conversation with the shortstop [Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki], not paying attention to [Moyer], and I get accused basically of cheating,” Jones said Sunday morning, before the series finale. “And that’s wrong. I’ve never accused him of doctoring a baseball or out-milligramming somebody.
“That just doesn’t make sense – it’s a 6-2 ballgame and a 3-0 count. My hitter is taking no matter what in that situation. Because we play the game right. And he thinks I’m giving signs? He’s paranoid.”
When approached by two Atlanta reporters Sunday in the Rockies clubhouse and asked about the incident, Moyer said, “I’ve got no comment.”
Well, Jones had plenty.
At one point, he rose from his seat in the visitor’s clubhouse Sunday to demonstrate.
“I literally am standing on second base and I’m talking to Tulo, and I turn around and [Moyer] is coming set,” he said. “So I get ready and take my lead, and [Moyer] goes, ‘I see you.’ And I go, what the [bleep] do you see? What the [bleep] are you talking about?’ I go, ‘I was [bleeping] talking to your shortstop. And he said something else with his back turned, like he yelled but didn’t face me. I go, that’s [bleeping] B.S. And I turned around to Tulo and Tulo’s like [holds hands up].”
Tulowitzki was asked Sunday about the incident.
“Moyer said something,” the shortstop said. “I think exactly how Chipper said it is how it happened. I think Moyer accused him of giving locations. All I can tell you is that Chipper and I were just talking, and I didn’t get any sense that he was relaying anything. No one knows the truth. You can look at it from both sides. On Moyer’s side, who’s going to say, ‘Yeah, I was giving locations’?
“So yeah, you can see both sides. But for me, [Jones] wasn’t doing anything.”
Tulowitzki also said he understood why Jones would be upset.
“Put yourself in his shoes – if you’re accused of something and you know you didn’t do it, you’re going to be fired up,” he said.
When Moyer came up to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning, Jones said the pitcher stepped out of the batter’s box and had a message for Braves catcher McCann.
“What really kind of gets under my skin is the fact that he told Mac, ‘That’s how people get hurt,’” Jones said.
Jones said Moyer’s comment to McCann upset him. Later on the field he spoke to Rockies first baseman Todd Helton and Tulowitzki about it “because [Moyer] was already out of the game by then, after those 900-foot homers with nobody on base – I said he could meet me in the tunnel and discuss it if [he would] like, and I never heard back.
“I don’t know what he was thinking. I’ve never relayed a sign from second in my entire career. And Tulo said his signs are so complex that NASA couldn’t steal them.”
The long home runs Jones referenced were back-to-back longballs by Matt Diaz and Jason Heyward off Moyer to begin the sixth inning, which served to open the spigot for the Braves offense. Diaz’s homer was an opposite-field shot – rare for him – that was conservatively estimated at 422 feet, and Heyward’s was a 445-foot blast to the bullpen just to the right of straightaway center.
Tyler Pastornicky followed Heyward with a single to chase Moyer from the game, and the Braves went on to score five runs in that inning and four more in the next for a 12-8 lead. Jones had a two-run single in each of those innings.
Jones matched a career high with his 18th five-RBI game, and first since turning 40 last month. He is the second Brave to have at least five RBIs in a game after his 40th birthday. The first was Babe Ruth in 1935, when he had six RBIs and the last three homers of his career in a game for the Boston Braves.
Moyer saw his ERA jump from 3.14 ERA to 4.01 after allowing 10 hits and season-highs of six runs and five earned runs in five-plus innings.
“I tell you what, the next time we face them I’ll stand with my back to him, and see what he says then,” Jones said. “What’s his excuse going to be when he gives it up then? I mean, dude, we don’t need signs, especially for him. I mean, my goodness, every pitch is 78 [mph]. Come on.”
Jones was correct about the rest of the Braves knowing what was going on between him and Moyer during the game.
“Any time a pitcher steps off and starts talking toward second base, and then steps out of the box and starts talking to your catcher, you want to know what’s going on,” Diaz said. “So yeah, we were all asking. We were aware.
“Jamie’s been known to be a little paranoid before. It’s just one of those things where it made absolutely no sense in the situation. And like Chip said, [Moyer] is one of those guys where giving pitches is really going to help. You’ll end up chasing out of the zone. If you’re sitting change-up and you get it, you’ll end up chasing it out of the zone.”
Diaz said many major league teams make a practice of stealing and relaying signs, but not the Braves.
“To be honest with you, I’ve tried to get the Braves to relay signs from second ever since I got here, because every other team I’ve been on does it,” Diaz said. “And Chip’s the reason we don’t. He’ll say ‘no, we don’t do that.’ So it’s funny that he got called out on it. Ironic even.”
Diaz said Jones has always preached that hitters tend to expand their strike zones when they know the type and/or location of the that’s coming. Pointing out that he’s had his best seasons with the Braves, Diaz said he’s probably better off because they don’t relay signs. He spent most of last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being traded back to the Braves in August.
“Last year we [Pirates] would relay at second sometimes if it was obvious, and I stunk,” he said. “So it’s one of those things… It’s been a part of the game for a long time. But the situation last night was really bizarre. We’re down four [at the time]. Who’s going to swing 3-0 when we’re down four? I mean, even if you get the green light that means you’re really selfish. You better hit a homer. Mac’s a baseball player. He knows.”
Jones had one more verbal jab to deliver, this time bringing a Braves rival into the mix. Moyer’s team from 2006 through 2010.
“See, this is what happens when you get a pitcher who comes from a team that [relays signs] constantly — the Phillies,” Jones said. “And he is so paranoid that every single team does it, which is not the case. Because the only people that I ever remember doing it in this organization were [Jeff] Blauser and [Mark] Lemke. Those are the only two guys that I ever knew of that would either give location or give signs from second base. Since then, nobody’s ever done it [with the Braves].
“I’ve never asked for a location, I’ve never asked for a pitch, and I’ve never given one.”
After a few days off to rest his pitching shoulder, Jonny Venters had no discomfort in a Sunday morning bullpen test. He warmed up during the game and would have pitched if needed…. Jones had a scheduled rest day Sunday. Manager Fredi Gonzalez hopes to keep him off the disabled list by giving Jones regular rest. The third baseman conceded Sunday morning is probably what’s helped him stay so productive when he’s in the lineup, even though he’d like to play more and hopes his knee will permit him to as it gets stronger.