PITTSBURGH — After playing every inning of the eventful, emotion-filled six-game homestand that ended Sunday, Chipper Jones was back in the lineup Monday for his season-high seventh consecutive start, to the surprise of some.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez had said Sunday that he might rest the 40-year-old retiring third baseman Monday because “for me, you’re borderline putting him in a situation where he could get hurt.”
But he added at that time, “I’ve been known to get talked out of those things as you well know with him.”
Jones didn’t have to do much persuading.
“I need to see a lefty today,” the switch-hitter said, referring to Jeff Locke, who started Monday and was the only Pirates lefty scheduled to pitch in the series. “I’m not feeling real good at the plate, and I need to get a couple of [at-bats] off of a lefty. It’ll be my last chance before Friday.
“I’ll probably take tomorrow [off].”
Gonzalez said he and Jones discussed the situation Sunday night. Jones had not started more than five consecutive games all season before starting every game during the final regular-season homestand of his career.
“I asked him and he said, ‘I want to play [Monday]. I want to face a lefty, and as long as we’re in I want to continue playing,’” Gonzalez said.
The Braves already secured at least a spot in Friday’s Wild Card game, but weren’t mathematically eliminated from the NL East race before Monday. They were three games behind division leader Washington with three to play before Monday, meaning the Braves needed to win all of their remaining games and the Nationals lose all of theirs to force a division tiebreaker.
If that happened the Braves would face the Nationals in a one-game tiebreaker on Thursday in Washington, with the winner advancing to a division series and the loser going to the Wild Card game the next day.
The Pirates paid tribute to Jones before Monday’s game. Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen presented him with one of the commemorative Chipper Jones bases that are being used throughout the series, along with a check for $5,000 in Jones’ name to the Georgia Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Jones’ parents also made the trip to Pittsburgh aboard the team’s Delta charter, which was decorated with a large No. 10 in honor of Jones and given a fire truck water-cannon salute before taking off from Atlanta on Sunday night.