For a while this season, the Braves couldn’t seem to win without Chipper Jones in the lineup. He recaptured a little of that sentiment Wednesday night, when they wouldn’t have won without him.
Jones reasserted his presence in the lineup with a two-run home run, his first in nearly two months, and it proved the difference in a 6-4 win over Arizona.
“It’s a situation where this is a big point in the season and I think for us, I need to be vocal, I need to be upbeat, I need to be producing, all those things,” Jones said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Tommy Hanson didn’t make it look quite as easy as Tim Hudson did Tuesday night, but he got the same result, pitching deep into the game and leading the Braves to a second straight win over Arizona.
Hanson threw six shutout innings before giving the Diamondbacks some pitches they could sink their teeth into, and he used a six-run cushion to hold them off when they did. Ryan Roberts hit a three-run home run with one out in the seventh on Hanson’s last pitch of the night, and Chris Young hit a pinch hit solo shot off Jonny Venters, but the Braves held on from there.
“When you have days like that I wish you could go a little bit more than 6 1/3 (innings) but it just didn’t work out today,” Hanson said. “But I felt really good all game.”
Dan Uggla snared a hard hit grounder and fed Andrelton Simmons for a dynamic double play in the eighth inning to rescue Eric O’Flaherty, and Craig Kimbrel struck out the side to nail it down with his 22nd save.
“That goes to show you what kind of guy Dan Uggla is,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He is struggling with the bat and he doesn’t let [it affect him] on the field. He made a hell of a double play. If we don’t turn that, we still may be playing.”
The Braves will try to sweep Thursday night with Jair Jurrjens on the mound to for his second start since returning from Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves have won five of six games overall this season against Arizona.
“It starts with the starting pitching,” Jones said. “Huddy and Tommy did their jobs. Tommy made really one bad pitch tonight but he was rewarded with a win. Now we’ve got to get some consistency out of the back three spots and if we do that, we’re going to win some games.”
Hanson did his best to heed manager Gonzalez’s call to work deep into games in these final 13 games before the All-Star break with an economical first six innings. He induced seven groundball outs and had thrown only 90 pitches when he left the game.
The Braves have won each of Hanson’s past five starts, while he’s gone 4-0 with a 3.13 ERA, and he leads the Braves’ staff with nine wins.
“I thought the first six innings it was the best I’ve seen him pitch in a long time,” Gonzalez said.
Jones duplicated some good work of his own in this series, following up a three-hit night Tuesday with the two-run homer Wednesday. It was Jones’ first since May 4 in Colorado and the first real pop he’s shown at the plate since returning from the disabled list with a severely bruised ankle.
Jones had taken two balls deep to left field in the first two games of the series, but both were caught on the warning track. But he gave the first-pitch offering from Trevor Cahill a ride to straightaway center field in the sixth for his sixth home run of the year.
Jones also worked back from an 0-2 count in the fifth inning to draw a leadoff walk and start a three-run rally against Cahill, who had three walks and a throwing error in the inning.
“Finally got my swing right,” Jones said. “Feeling good, got some confidence. I got a good pitch to hit right there in a big spot and centered it.”
Jason Heyward homered for the sixth time in his past 17 games (16 starts) to give the Braves their second straight first-inning home run in the series.
He extended his career-long hitting streak to 12 games on the first swing he took Wednesday, connecting for his 12th home run of the year on a 2-0 pitch. Heyward, who is hitting .395 (30-for-76) in June, is only two homers shy of his total (14) from a year ago.