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Cubs Can't Keep Up With the Braves' Jones

Switch-hitting outfielder belts a two-run homer from each side of the plate and Atlanta beats Chicago, 6-4, to force a decisive Game 5 tonight.

October 05, 2003|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves sat in the clubhouse before the game, feeling about as desperate as they had in a long time.

The powerful offense that had carried them in the regular season had evaporated, and they were at the brink of elimination in what would be yet another postseason disappointment. Even worse, Gary Sheffield was out of the lineup, his left hand still too sore and swollen to play.

"We knew it was basically win this game or take a vacation -- a long one," Jones said. "It would have been a real rough winter for us."

But winter is still a few weeks away, and the Braves showed they had some big hits left. Jones ended his postseason slump with a two-run homer from each side of the plate, Russ Ortiz pitched well on three days' rest and the Braves defeated the Chicago Cubs, 6-4, Saturday.

With Wrigley Field fans on edge and the streets of Chicago rocking in anticipation of the Cubs winning their first postseason series since 1908, the Braves sent the National League division series back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5 tonight.

Sammy Sosa made them sweat it out right down to the final swing, though.

With a run already in and a runner on second, Sosa came up with two out for a tense matchup against closer John Smoltz. On a full-count pitch, Sosa took a hopeful hop as his bid for a tying, two-run homer left the bat.

"When he made contact, my heart jumped into my throat," Jones said. "Wouldn't the roof come off this place if Sammy were to hit a two-run homer off Smoltzie in that situation?"

But center fielder Andruw Jones calmly caught the ball on the edge of the warning track for the last out.

"The swing I had was good, but it wasn't quite a full swing," Sosa said. "But I thought I had it for a second."

Smoltz, who appeared to be grimacing in pain during the at-bat, bent over and put his hands on his knees after holding on for a save.

Eric Karros hit two solo homers for the Cubs.

Atlanta hit only .191 in the first three games of the series and had only three extra-base hits. The struggles of the Joneses and Sheffield were the most glaring, with the 3-4-5 hitters combining for three hits through the first three games.

But with Sheffield on the bench -- he was hit in the left hand by Mark Prior's pitch Friday night -- Manager Bobby Cox moved Chipper Jones to his old No. 3 spot, and he responded.

"That's where I feel most comfortable," Chipper Jones said. "I've never seen myself as a No. 4 hitter, but ... that makes our team better. Any chance I hit in the three hole, all those guys cherish moving up one spot in the lineup and want to make the most of it."

Batting left-handed in the fifth inning, he sent Matt Clement's 1-and-0 pitch arching toward left-center field for a 3-1 lead and silencing the crowd of 39,983.

He wasn't done, either. Batting right-handed in the eighth inning against Mark Guthrie, he put a 3-and-2 pitch into almost the same spot in left-center field.

"It's actually a matter of time before they all break out like that," Cox said.

Every Atlanta starter reached base at least once, and Andruw Jones and Darren Bragg were the only ones without a hit. But Bragg, starting in place of Sheffield, had a broken-bat fielder's choice in the fifth inning to tie the score, 1-1.

Even 40-something Julio Franco, who started for a struggling Robert Fick at first base, contributed. Franco went three for four with a walk and scored a run.

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