Chipper Jones provides Braves with a needed miracle

Chipper Jones is greeted by teammates after his walkoff, three-run homer won it for Braves. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones is greeted by teammates after three-run homer won it for Braves. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 9:45 p.m.)

They have given away bobbleheads of the old man. They have given away posters. I’m not sure what else the Braves can do to commemorate what Chipper Jones has meant to this franchise, except maybe provide a DVD of his ninth inning at-bat to the thousands of fans who weren’t around for the finish Sunday night.

What is it about these situations? Ninth inning. Men on base. Two outs. Not many athletes thrive when given an opportunity to turn desperation into miracle, but Jones is one and he proved it again. As he said earlier Sunday, “That’s just the mentality that I’ve always had. And that’s never going to stop. I don’t care if I’m 40 or 60.”

Staying with the age theme, Jones made 40 look like 20, just when the Braves were looking 60. He slammed a two-out, three-run homer off Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon to cap a five-run ninth inning, giving the Braves an improbable 8-7 win over the Phillies at Turner Field.

The ending took place before the several thousand fans, not to be confused with the thousands who had streamed for the exits over the previous few innings, when the Braves fell behind 7-1 and looked destined for their 11th loss in 15 games and possible postseason oblivion (again).

Was this a gong to signal a 180 in this team’s fortunes? Or was it just a loud diversion from a season that has looked to be going up in flames?

“Technically I say they’re all must-wins,” Jones said afterward. “That’s the way I go about it. That’s my mentality. I go out there expecting to win every day. But for whatever reason it hadn’t been happening for us lately. And I’m glad I got an opportunity there in the ninth, an opportunity to win the ball game and came through. It was a huge win for a club that was a little down in the dumps from the way we’ve been playing lately.”

There’s no way to know if what Jones did is going to change the course of the Braves’ season. It’s only one game of 162. It came at the end of a series that the Braves lost, in a stretch that has seen them slide further back in the National League East and clinging to wild card hopes.

But if the Braves do manage to make something of this season, remember what Chipper Jones did on Sept. 2.

“Unbelievable,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s going to be a Hall-of-Famer. Not too many guys can do that kind of stuff. Thank God that we got in that position to make him do that.”

The Braves trailed 5-0 in the first, 7-1 in the third and 7-3 in the ninth. They had two on and two outs when somebody pulled a needle out of a voodoo doll. Michael Bourn walked to load the bases, Martin Prado doubled past the glove of Phillies third baseman Kevin Frandsen to bring home two runs, and then led brought up Jones, who crushed a 1-1 pitch from Papelbon.

Asked if he was thinking then that he could end the game with one swing, he said: “I was just trying to center the fastball. I didn’t really at that point care where it went because I knew if I got [a hit] and hit it hard somewhere that Prado would score, tie the game and it’s a whole new ball game. … Sometimes things happen. It was certainly another one of those games I’ll never forget.”

When Jones arrived at home plate after circling the bases, he was met with the traditional dirt shower from teammates. There’s a welcome switch. For the most part, dirt has been thrown on the whole team of late — in an entirely different context.

The Braves will try to milk this celebration for as long as possible. There hasn’t been a lot of them. When Jones stepped to the plate, even he was struggling in key situations: 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position for a team that had entered the night 15 for 106 (.142) during a miserable 4-10 stretch. The Braves had been circling the drain.

Consider the backdrop before Jones’ heroics. The Braves’ starting pitcher, Paul Maholm, allowed five runs in the first inning. By the time somebody realized two innings later this wouldn’t be short-term disaster and went out to rescue him, they needed a dustpan and broom.

The offense has been so head-slapping bad that Gonzalez benched two struggling starters (Brian McCann and Dan Uggla) and fielded his 89th different batting order, because, as he observed: “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and coming out with the same conclusion? (Close enough.)

One area the Braves wanted to improve in this season was situational hitting. Under new hitting coaches Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher, they had done that for the first few months of the season. But their hitting has been on a steady decline (.264 in June, .248 in July, .232 in August) and their proficiency with runners in scoring position has been worse than ever. The .142 average with runners in scoring position was a staggering 106 points less than before the 4-10 stretch (.248).

Improvement can’t compensate for grease fires like Maholm’s (2 innings, 7 runs, 6 hits, 3 walks but no lost major organs). But on most nights that’s a difference of one to three runs.

Walker tried to explain this nosedive with something as simple as, “We’re in a stretch where we’re facing some really good pitchers.” Except it’s really not that simple. If players were gripping the bats any tighter, they would be leaving a trail of sawdust from the dugout to the plate.

It hasn’t just been the offense. Their only reliable starting pitcher of late has been Kris Medlen, who wasn’t even in the rotation before July 31. The bullpen has blown two games. Defense has been erratic. Even on Sunday, Maholm forgot to cover first base on a potential double play ball to Freddie Freeman in the second.

This is little league stuff. This is mental stuff.

But with one swing, Jones changed this team’s fortunes, at least in the short term.

“Ah, nothing beats that,” he said. “That’s as good as it gets for a baseball player, being able to walk off the field, especially in our situation where we were just really down and out since about the fourth hitter of the game. And feeling like this was going to be a sweep and going to have to listen to everybody say stuff …”

If anybody can change how this story ends, it’s Jones.

By Jeff Schultz

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126 comments Add your comment

#10forever

September 2nd, 2012
9:10 pm

first? and favorite sports moment for me so far

David from Athens, AL

September 2nd, 2012
9:10 pm

Thanks Jeff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chop Chop

September 2nd, 2012
9:13 pm

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As far as the team is concerned, a loss tomorrow would wipe out what was done today. That’s baseball for ya.

As for the memory of today? I think that one’s going to last a long time. That’s why I’m a sports fan.

Seattle Hawks fan

September 2nd, 2012
9:17 pm

Fire Fredi and hire Chipper! Chipper for manager 2013!

It's over now

September 2nd, 2012
9:17 pm

I agree that this will last for a long time……

I thought Chipper’s comment about being paid lots of money and how he should be delivering was a slam at Dan Uggla – and once again the team wins with Dan on the bench.

But the focus should be on Chipper – we are going to miss him when he’s gone and that will be all too soon.

This is the type of comeback that didn’t happen last September.

Penjamo99

September 2nd, 2012
9:17 pm

Great at bat by #10!!!
It seems as in years past the young guns were brought up from AA and AAA but lately the uphoria of these call ups hasn’t had an effect at the MLB level.

Weaseal

September 2nd, 2012
9:17 pm

Old man Mamo -Can Chipper win the MVP with a few more big games??

Observer

September 2nd, 2012
9:18 pm

Chipper Jones …..memory maker.

Whopper Dawg

September 2nd, 2012
9:19 pm

He is having a helluva final season. I miss him already. Should be a first ballot HOFer.

lee maye

September 2nd, 2012
9:20 pm

Good win. Now, Fredi needs to keep Uggla on the bench. Play Prado at 2B and platoon Johnson and Constanza in LF. Platoon Ross and McCann. And, use Francisco at 3B when Hoss can’t go. Bring up some more pitchers and use the expanded rosters. That seems to be the recipe for success. And, then, hope, one of your pitchers and the bats are hot on the 1 day Wildcard playoff.

George Stein

September 2nd, 2012
9:23 pm

Perhaps the insane part is putting out 89 different lineups, Fredi.

President Romney

September 2nd, 2012
9:30 pm

I am thinking about changing my vice selection. America, please standby, Mitt

jimbob

September 2nd, 2012
9:31 pm

“There hasn’t been a lot of them. ”

Shouldn’t it be: there haven’t been a lot of them?

man and dog

September 2nd, 2012
9:32 pm

lee maye – agree with you totally. Should have been done a long time ago. WAY TO GO CHIPPER!!!

KurtisAnus

September 2nd, 2012
9:33 pm

This was the BEST play ever in any game from 1992 to today . I have seen the wall jump by Otis Nixon and its number 1 …but this is a strong number 1 if not 2 …

Dub

September 2nd, 2012
9:34 pm

Simply the THE MAN! Way to go Chip! Uggla is still swinging and missing………………..

Big Freaking Deal

September 2nd, 2012
9:34 pm

Hero Today – ZERO Tomorrow…….will be glad when he is gone and we don’t have to look at that stuck up smug smile. He is replaceable.

Orego Brave

September 2nd, 2012
9:39 pm

Enter your comments here

Dave

September 2nd, 2012
9:39 pm

Special moment … it was one damn special moment

pawpawisthebest

September 2nd, 2012
9:39 pm

Me and Maddex were there what a blast………………………

Growler

September 2nd, 2012
9:40 pm

I was there and I stayed ’til the end, glad I did. I can tell you it was so quiet in the bottom of the 9th you could hear a pin drop… until the Braves loaded the bases. Then chaos ensued. If that’s the last at-bat I ever see from Chipper, I am glad it was that. And I give Bourne and Prado credit for giving him that last-gasp chance (esp. Bourne’s working out that walk). I hope this win can fix them psychologically. They looked like a tired, defeated team for most of the past 2 days and really needed that lift.

jocrazy

September 2nd, 2012
9:40 pm

its sad when we have to bring the farm team up in sept. before we make changes why do we think they r better than our starters in sept.?

Cedric

September 2nd, 2012
9:41 pm

stay away bfd because Chipper is the deal here in the ATL.

Orego Brave

September 2nd, 2012
9:42 pm

Peter Moylan throws two strikes and gets the win? Welcome back Pete. And thank you Chipper.

KurtisAnus

September 2nd, 2012
9:42 pm

Looks like it will be …braves VS the nationals for the NLDS

Not Really Cedric......

September 2nd, 2012
9:44 pm

Cedric, Chipper is nothing but a gimpy disabled veteran….it makes absolutely no difference to me whether he is in the lineup or out at his ranch shoveling cow crap…..which is about the sum total of most of his level of play this year…..Good Riddance and Good Bye Chipper – Go Away!

Tim Scott

September 2nd, 2012
9:45 pm

great finish and clutch again from the future HOF 3rd baseman. I agree Uggla and McCann need to be kept on the bench Mac needs to go get the shoulder cleaned up if that means he is done for this year so be it. As for Uggla Atlanta needs find him a new home over the winter I think we know why the Marlins didn’t make a push to keep him last year. It’s disappointing because he was so much fun to watch with Florida and I know a lot of folks myself included were overjoyed when we got him. The fat lady ain’t singing yet but the band is warming up LETS GO BRAVES

Lonnie smith

September 2nd, 2012
9:45 pm

What a PUNK, Big Freaking Deal.

What a comeback. Go Braves!

ole dawg

September 2nd, 2012
9:46 pm

@Big Freaking Deal… you are replaceable also and I just replaced you. You sir are an idiot for being glad that a HOF will be gone. If you had ever met Chipper and spoke with him in person you would know that he is not stuck up. Crawl back in your hole.

OF Braves Fan

September 2nd, 2012
9:46 pm

Growler, congrats on being a loyal fan that got rewarded for staying in the Ninth with the Braves trailing by 4. Dude, this Buds for you!

Jealousy is tough to manage

September 2nd, 2012
9:46 pm

Really BFD? Really???? Methinks that you’re the type person who would complain if someone gave you a million dollars in $100 dollar bills and you’d complain it wasn’t in 20’s. Go get a life and bug off. Chipper is, and has been, one of the constant high performers for the Braves since he came to the team. You obviously missed the Standing O he received in San Fran last week. He will retire as a Brave with the well-deserved respect of almost everyone who watches or plays Major League Baseball. Everyone except knotheads like you! Take a hike nitwit!

Lonnie smith

September 2nd, 2012
9:47 pm

And you too, Not Really Cedric. Change your name to Not Really A Man.

Chipmunk

September 2nd, 2012
9:48 pm

@Big Freaking Deal – Why, ex-Mrs Chipper Jones, I didn’t know you blogged!

Blazerdawg

September 2nd, 2012
9:49 pm

JS – good job w the multiple shots at the fans, I mean where else would some one leave a 7-1 or
7-3 baseball game on a Sunday night?

Way to go Chipper!

Jealousy is tough to manage

September 2nd, 2012
9:51 pm

Been thinkin about it…Come on Jeff. It’s really you posting as BFD just to rile the fans up, ain’t it? You can admit it…surely there is no one as dense as this guy. I don’t post very much, but that got my dander up.

NorCal Brave

September 2nd, 2012
9:53 pm

Chipper for one day gave the team a huge boost, remains to be seen whether it’ll cure the slump. And the starting pitching is still a big question mark. Fredi better not revert to starting Uggla and McCann, there’s a ray of light in the lineup’s black hole.

Jeff Schultz

September 2nd, 2012
9:53 pm

Folks. Column has been updated.
Amazing how this guy can keep doing this at his age.
Hate to see him go.

CoachD

September 2nd, 2012
9:56 pm

Happy for Chipper. Scary to think that he won’t be here next year. Colorado series is MUST SWEEP for the Braves.

Lonnie smith

September 2nd, 2012
9:56 pm

I agree jeff

CoachD

September 2nd, 2012
9:56 pm

Happy for Chipper. Scary to think that he won’t be here next year. Colorado series is MUST SWEEP for the Braves.

BraveFan

September 2nd, 2012
9:57 pm

Thanks Chipper for a thrill I will not soon forget. Man did he crush that ball!!

Two Handed Set Shot

September 2nd, 2012
9:57 pm

Freddi Gonzo is hoping his head is not on chopping block for second swoon season in a row.

reality

September 2nd, 2012
9:59 pm

I don’t understand the anti-chipper comments on here. Obviously these people are baseball fans or why would they be on this blog? But why the Chip hate? He just won a game for the braves and will be gone soon enough. We should celebrate the HOFer while we can…. I don’t understand the hate….

BOISESTATEBRONCO

September 2nd, 2012
10:04 pm

I am really gonna miss ol’ Hoss!

Growler

September 2nd, 2012
10:04 pm

Thanks OF Braves Fan! And let me add: Fredi continues to mismanage key situations. Should have NEVER let Maholm bat with a runner on 3rd and 1 out in the bottom of the second. If they pinch hit and score that run and Martinez just comes in and starts the top of the 3rd inning cold, maybe it’s a 5-4 game in the 9th instead of 7-3. Now, it all worked out storybook cuz of Chipper but Gonzalez botches moves game and game, and rarely seems to get called out on it here.
(oh and p..s to Jeff: yeah people left early, but FAR more people stayed than you seem to imply in your updated story)

BOISESTATEBRONCO

September 2nd, 2012
10:06 pm

He just keeps amazin’ us!

BOISESTATEBRONCO

September 2nd, 2012
10:09 pm

What Chipper is doing is absolutely outstanding no matter how old he is! LET’S GO BRAVES!!!

Jealousy is tough to manage

September 2nd, 2012
10:14 pm

I was hoping that Fredi Gonzalez would be able to fill the shoes of Bobby Cox. Tall order though. I have to admit there are times when I wonder if he’s watching the same game I am. I’m not a professional ball player or coach, but I’ve watched enough ball to know the basics. Sometimes Fredi just doesn’t seem to get it. I agree it was early to PH for Maholm, but given that his pitching is suspect the last couple of outings, and we are trying to avoid a sweep, take the chance and pinch hit.

Seattle Supersonicsuck

September 2nd, 2012
10:25 pm

Go Braves..good win.

Oregon Brave

September 2nd, 2012
10:26 pm

Peter Moylan for Cy Young.