Chipper feeling young again, and Kawakami, Braves benefit

Chipper Jones' three-run shot in seventh gave the Braves a 3-1 lead tied him with his hero, Cal Ripken Jr. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones' three-run homer gave the Braves a 3-1 lead and tied him with Cal Ripken Jr.

When Chipper Jones retires – and all assumptions on that should be off the table right now because a 38-year-old whose body screams, “Help!” every other day just watched a 100-mile-per-hour fastball fly through in the shadows and cranked it for a 400 foot home run – he will remember this.

He will remember the euphoria of the moment: A three-run shot that put his team ahead and resuscitated an 0-9 Kenshin Kawakami (who in his mind might have been half way to Hartsfield).

He will remember the historical significance: Home run No. 431 of his career tied him with childhood hero Cal Ripken Jr.

He certainly will remember the embarrassment that followed: Running to third base for the eighth inning, not immediately realizing his teammates had stayed behind so he would be out there alone, in the middle of a standing ovation from 39,000 fans.

“I felt naked out there,” he said later.

The Braves won a baseball game 4-3 over Detroit on Saturday at Turner Field. They still have 97 to go in the season. But some games just seem bigger than others.

Kenshin Kawakami allowed only one run and two hits in seven innings form his first win. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Kenshin Kawakami allowed a run and two hits in seven innings for his first win. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Kawakami, the Schleprock of the team, had one leg into the bullpen and the other into a therapist’s office when he took the mound. He was 0-for-2010. The imminent return of Jair Jurrjens, combined with the rise of Kris Medlen, likely meant his number was up in the rotation after this start. For all we know, it might still mean that. But he threw a gem for seven innings, allowing the Tigers only two hits and one painful run (walk; sketchy infield single when Kawakami bungled fielding a bunt; wild pitch; groundout).

He trailed 1-0, sitting in the dugout in the bottom of the seventh, when Jones stepped to the plate against the fire-breathing reliever, Joel Zumaya, with two on and two out. The first pitch was a ball. The second pitch, a 100-mph fastball, was belted 400 feet over the right-center field wall.

“You wish you could take that swing and bottle it for the next time,” Jones said. “All of the moons lined up right there.”

He then referenced tying Ripken, adding: “His number is as special to me as any other number and I’ll get. To have it happen when we were behind in the game, you can’t have it any better.”

Ten days ago, Jones ended the public Hamlet act on retirement. He now has a 10-game hitting streak, hitting .389 in that span. As for what he means to this team: How’s this for an embrace? When Jones left the dugout for the eighth, all his teammates stayed behind. Jones stood out there alone for at least 15 seconds, at one point raising his arms and looking back into the dugout.

“It seemed like an eternity,” Jones said.

It was a rare moment. I know this because no Brave, not Bobby Cox, not even Furman Bisher, could remember seeing it before. I thought for sure Bisher would say, “Saw the Tigers do that once for Hank Greenberg back in ‘41. Schoolboy Rowe was pitching. It was a Tuesday.”

Jones again: “As it’s coming down to the end, I’ve learned to soak it in every time something [special] happens because you don’t know how many times it will happen.”

Also this: “I’m going to kill my teammates. I’m going to fine them all in kangaroo court.”

Kawakami sweated it out to the end. Relievers Takashi Saito and Eric O’Flaherty combined to allow a homer and four consecutive walks in the ninth, making the score 4-3. Kawakami, watching on TV in the clubhouse, acknowledged later that after each walk, “I kept changing seats” in hopes of changing his luck.

The last seat must have worked because, with the bases loaded, Peter Moylan threw a full count pitch to Johnny Damon that looked a foot outside, but umpire Gary Cederstrom called it strike three. If he calls it a ball, the game is tied, Kawakami doesn’t get the win and Jones’ homer loses significance.

“A little drama in the last inning,” Cox said later.

Just adds to the moment.

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80 comments Add your comment

Bat Masterson

June 26th, 2010
10:03 pm

Had ‘em all the way………

sunday

June 26th, 2010
10:04 pm

that pitch was more than a foot outside. but congrats to kk.

Bat Masterson

June 26th, 2010
10:06 pm

I think Kawikami stays in the rotation for now. If Medlen starts he will run into an innings pitched problem, with several starts left in the season. Time will tell.

Reid Adair

June 26th, 2010
10:06 pm

While I wasn’t happy to hear that Billy Wagner’s ankle was messed up, I was glad to have some understanding of the ninth-inning debacle.

As for Kenshin Kawakami, looking at his overall body of work, he should still be banished to the bullpen. If Jair Jurrjens starts Wednesday night, bump Kris Medlen to the next game and continue on.

Matthew Majeske

June 26th, 2010
10:08 pm

Once again the Detroit Tigers get screwed by the umpires. Gary Cederstrom blew his call on a pitch that was a mile off the plate, handing the Braves an undeserved victory when it should have been a tie game. Earlier, Jim Joyce spoiled Armando Gallaraga’s perfect game with a blown call on the last out. Why do the umpires have a vendetta against the Tigers? Or are they just grossly imcompetent? Who is supervising these guys? They are way off

Greg

June 26th, 2010
10:12 pm

Karma finally came back around from the Eric Gregg game in 97 vs. the Marlins.

Also, this is the second time this year the Tigers have been on a game-changing bad call by an umpire.

ScoutDawg

June 26th, 2010
10:15 pm

Thank God that monkey left the building! Oh my God can you imagine this team with a HOT CHIPPER!

Jim

June 26th, 2010
10:18 pm

Sure that pitch was outside but the umpire miss several pitches that were called balls that were really strikes. With an umpire like that you really dont know what he’s going to called. I’m glad it work out for the braves though

Techman

June 26th, 2010
10:31 pm

I bet a lot of teams would love to have KK in the rotation. I think the braves move him to the bullpen and unfortunately keep Lowe in there.

Ken Stallings

June 26th, 2010
10:32 pm

I wonder how many people appreciate the fact that Chipper Jones will be the first Brave to make an induction speech at Cooperstown, who played his career in Atlanta?

All the other HOF position players in Braves history played a large measure of their careers in Boston and/or Milwaukee.

Herschel Talker

June 26th, 2010
10:39 pm

Schultzie – we love you!

Tami

June 26th, 2010
10:43 pm

@ScoutDawg: And, if Heyward & McCain caught fire at the same time? And, with JJ back in the rotation?? Ahhhh….my imagination has me slightly giddy.

@Ken Stallings: Most diehard fans are soooo aware of that fact. In fact, when we finally get confirmation when Chipper will finally retire, I’ll be saving up my pennies so I can go to my first-ever trip to Cooperstown to see Chipper’s induction. Looking forward to that possibility. Hope I make it.

@Techman: You know, while observing KK’s pitching today, I started thinking of the real possibility of KK being moved to the bullpen (all jokes aside) and what that would do. I think — if anything — it would strengthen it. So the run support is TERRIBLE when KK starts. If all he needed to do was hold a score where it is for 3-5 innings (say a starter has an off day, gets injured, or there’s a rain delay), KK could actually do that. He sort of forgets where the strike zone is in the later innings anyway, which is when Bobby should have been ready to quickly replace him. I hope KK will understand how much his value to the bullpen can be.

Tami

June 26th, 2010
10:45 pm

And one more note: Yes. The final pitch was just a bit outside. Definitely a ball, not a strike. Should have tied up the game. I just think the ump had dinner plans and wanted to get the heck out of the heat! LOL

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: [...]

Eli

June 26th, 2010
11:01 pm

A “W” is a “W”. That’s baseball. Gotta love it…

techdweeb

June 26th, 2010
11:10 pm

Come on “Sergeant” Schultz (I know NOTHING!!!!!). Kawakami gave up two hits in seven innings. This was the best outing by a Brave in a while. Acknowledge that after announcing “the Kawakami Experiment is over” last week. Two hits in seven innings pitched! Against a contender in the AL. Don’t focus so much on Chipper “bailing him out.” Glad for Chipper. Let’s hope both of them continue to do well.

JSS

June 26th, 2010
11:23 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
What did you and Ledbetter get up and watch Cartoon Network this week and see the same re-run of “Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm” ? “Bad luck Schleprock” hasn’t gotten this much mention since 1974!

JSS

June 26th, 2010
11:28 pm

@ K Stallings…
Do you mean his entire “career?” Smoltz will get in before Chipper and make his speech…

David C

June 26th, 2010
11:59 pm

Classic Bobby Cox…I love him..won’t be another like him.

Mike S

June 27th, 2010
12:37 am

You know, I think the whole Will he/Won’t he retirement drama actually helped Chipper. Just my Opinion, but I think Chipper decided this is it, and when he did it lifted a huge load off his mind – and now he is not “thinking” about playing Baseball to his old level, he is just enjoying playing the game he loves. And it is showing at the plate and in the field.

Plus the leaving him alone out on the field tonight was classic!! It also shows just how much comraderie and chemistry this years team has — and you can never understate the importance of that! Loaded teams have fallen short time and time again because they were just a collection of Great players and matching egos, while a group of good players can turn in a magical season because they become a team.

What we saw in the top of the 8th inning tonight was a TEAM!

innocent bystander

June 27th, 2010
12:42 am

The line about Furman Bisher is wonderful. A really great line. And as much as words can, it captures the greatness of baseball.

Mitchell

June 27th, 2010
12:54 am

It was a rare moment. I know this because no Brave, not Bobby Cox, not even Furman Bisher, could remember seeing it before. I thought for sure Bisher would say, “Saw the Tigers do that once for Hank Greenberg back in ‘41. Schoolboy Rowe was pitching. It was a Tuesday.”

That’s funny.

Furman Bisher’s old.

Techman

June 27th, 2010
1:07 am

Techdweeb – Schultzie won’t say anything positive about KK. He called me nuts on twitter because I told him to go check the stats between Hanson and KK because they’re similar. I’m not trying to say KK is as good as Hanson but KK is nowhere near as bad as the fans are making him out to be.

TommyJack

June 27th, 2010
1:30 am

“Trick” played on Chipper was maybe the coolest thing I’ve seen in baseball.

GovClintonTyree

June 27th, 2010
7:52 am

Mike S, I think you’re exactly right.

GovClintonTyree

June 27th, 2010
7:53 am

Jeff, nicely done. Great line on Bisher…my wife, barely a baseball fan, laughed out loud when I read her that one.

GovClintonTyree

June 27th, 2010
7:56 am

Y’know, my 8 year old’s all-star team is getting their first taste of tournament ball and flamethrowers, relatively speaking…and we’ve been schooling them to have “quick hands, straight to the ball.” Looks like if you’re eight or 38, the game’s the same.

Navigator

June 27th, 2010
7:57 am

Chipper may feel younger after yesterday, but Cox’s handling of the pitchers is the same old issue. He was willing to sacrifice a win for a reliever’s psyche, and almost did.

fieldofdreams

June 27th, 2010
8:20 am

The only Way to get free in this life is through Jesus Christ. He’s the only One who can forgive your sins.

stew

June 27th, 2010
8:36 am

I think the Braves only have 87 games left not 97. 44 and 31 equals 75. 162 minus 75 equals 87. I could be wrong but check your math.

Wrecker

June 27th, 2010
9:07 am

Atlanta Braves HOF inductees include Phil Niekro, who played 18 seasons (and 1 game) in Atlanta. Yes, he started in Milwaukee and played some time in NY, Tor, and Cleveland, but is wearing the A in the HOF.

Gil Garrido

June 27th, 2010
9:12 am

Just curious, navigator – Who did you want him to bring in?

Ralph

June 27th, 2010
9:19 am

I think JJ should be the one to go to the pen, at least for a while until he gets back on track, he pitched poorly before the DL and was alful in rehab at Gwinette, the rotation we have now is doing fine and when one of them falters or gets hurt we could move JJ bact into the rotation and see what he can do.

jerry

June 27th, 2010
9:23 am

Another benefactor last night was Peter Moylan when ball four, which was a foot outside, was called strike three. Bobby f–ked up the ninth and came out smelling like a rose.

Gil Garrido

June 27th, 2010
9:26 am

You too, Jerry — How should VCox have handled the ninth inning differently?????
Dolt.

jerry

June 27th, 2010
9:47 am

Gil, it would be useless to try and explain to you. And it takes one to know one.

Gil Garrido

June 27th, 2010
9:53 am

No, seriously.
Educate me.
Keep Venters in for one more innning? If that had not worked, you would have blasted Cox for that.
Start with Moylan? Same thing.
Pull O’Flaherty after one batter?
Bottom line is, what he did worked – so how did he mis-manage it?

Fire Frank Wren

June 27th, 2010
10:05 am

Techman, do you get a commission for every KK jersey sold or something. The Braves have 6 starters and one of them has to go to the pin. It will be KK based on his 1 and 9 record. Someone will get hurt again inevitably and he will be back soon. He pitched a great game and is about 50/50 on quality starts, as you say someone would want him but isn’t going to pay the $8 Mil per year.

BigD

June 27th, 2010
10:20 am

Way to go Gil. Seems like the Braves can still win the game and people want to find fault with Cox for the way he handled the game. That bull___ gets old. Hey it was a great game and we won. Enjoy it.

Mike Jay

June 27th, 2010
10:21 am

Great game, even with the 9th inning shenanigans. Grats to KK for finally getting the W. He has pitched well enough this year to easily have another 4 or so wins. The Chipper thing gave me goosebumps. That was awesome, this team is magical and can/will go all the way. Go Braves!

Ph.D.

June 27th, 2010
10:29 am

Well written article with greatly placed quotes. Uplifting.

GSU Eagle 91

June 27th, 2010
10:54 am

Ken,
you are forgetting that 2 other “Atlanta” Braves will make it to Cooperstown before Chipper..Glavine and Smoltz are both 1st ballot HOFers…Of course G Maddux is but he started with the Cubs…
Go Chipper.. prove all of us naysayers wrong for the next 97 games….

BigD

June 27th, 2010
10:56 am

Maybe now with that monkey off his back KK can get back to pitching with less pressure. That being said I still think Medlen has earned the 5th spot in the rotation.

Dawgdad (The Original)

June 27th, 2010
11:02 am

I agree that JJ should start in the pen based on the way KK pitched yesterday. Let him get 2/3 relief appearances in before you throw him out there. We know he can’t go more than 5 innings in his first start so why deny Med or KK a start until JJ gets stretched out.

The last pitch was a farce and yes the up did miss several strikes when Saito was pitching, but nothing makes up for just deciding before the pitch was thrown that if it was close it was a strike. IMO, I think he didn’t want to go to extra innings in that heat. He felt like the Tigers might score one and no more and we might have to play three or more extra innings which would have been unfortunate in the heat. He made up his mind to call anything close a strike, unfortunately it seems he stretched his decision a little.

Time

June 27th, 2010
11:10 am

A couple weeks ago, it seemed all of ATL was ready to put Chipper out to pasture. I said not so fast, he can still hit, he was just beat up.

If turning around 100 mph Zumaya heat like that doesn’t show everyone that Chipper can still play and be a big contributor to this team…nothing will. Just got to keep him healthy. Give Conrad a few spot starts here and there to rest him, and he will hit.

BigD

June 27th, 2010
11:19 am

Maybe KK sent the ump a text and promised him some sushi after the game if he gave him a little help. Go Braves. Go umps.

BigD

June 27th, 2010
11:28 am

Heck Time I still believe in Chipper but I think he needs to keep it up the rest of the season along with Mac and Esco for us to make the playoffs. If those three can carry their weigth we are going to have one strong team come playoff time.

RRR

June 27th, 2010
12:20 pm

For all you guys talking about “other” ATL Braves to the HOF, the original post stated: “Position player”, so, it is correct.
As for what the team did for Chipper, that was fantastic and gave this long time old timer goose bumps, and I had never seen it before either. Same goes for what the team did for that one walk off HR by McClouth.
GO Braves!

eddie

June 27th, 2010
12:27 pm

Jerry, Fire Frank Wren and all you other Naysayers take a hike from this blog. I am sick of your negativity even when the Braves win. Most of us here are Braves fans and we are relishing this small modicum of success the team is enjoying. If you can’t derive pleasure from the win on Saturday you are a hopeless, callous soul. Differences of opinion are the lifeblood of a blog. But constant negativity is tiresome to everyone except you and your small group of misguided miscreants. Now leave the site, and good riddance.

Clint

June 27th, 2010
12:30 pm

I think you guys are not understanding Ken’s comment. Chipper will be the only ATLANTA Brave inducted into the HOF that ONLY played for the Atlanta Braves.

Niekro played elsewhere. Maddux played elsewhere. Glavine played elsewhere. Smoltz played elsewhere.

Chipper is the only one to be a true, 100% ATLANTA BRAVES Hall of Famer.