<
>

Chipper Jones hits 2 two-run HRs

10/5/2003

CHICAGO (AP) -- 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, and Russ Ortiz pitched
well on three days' rest as the Braves defeated the 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 this NL playoff back to Atlanta
for a decisive Game 5.

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 outs for a tense matchup against star 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 homers for the Cubs, but both were solo
shots.

So the series now goes back to Atlanta on Sunday night. Mike
Hampton will try to duplicate Ortiz's effort, facing Kerry Wood on
three days' rest.

The winner will host Florida in the opener of the NLCS on
Tuesday.

"All year long we've put ourselves in a corner many different
times and we've been able to respond," Karros said. "We're
looking forward to doing that tomorrow."

The Braves led the NL in batting average (.284), homers (a
franchise-record 235) and runs (907, another club mark) this year.
But those big bats were nowhere to be found once the postseason
began.

Atlanta hit just .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 -- Atlanta manager Bobby Cox moved
Chipper Jones back up 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
1-0 pitch arching toward left-center for a 3-1 lead.

The crowd of 39,983 knew the ball was gone even before it landed
in the seats, falling so silent a goat could have been heard
bleating.

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

"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 to score Atlanta's first run and tie it at 1.

Even 40-something Julio Franco, who started for a struggling
Robert Fick, was an offensive juggernaut. Franco went 3-for-4 with
a walk and scored a run.

The Cubs, meanwhile, left eight on base, including a runner in
scoring position in each of the first five innings.

"We had some opportunities and were not able to take advantage
of them," Karros said. "We got some good at-bats."

Karros also took a beating. In the eighth inning, he caught a
throw to first and still had his arm raised when pinch-hitter Fick
came barreling at him and threw a forearm that was worthy of
all-star wrestling.

The blow knocked the ball and glove free, nearly injuring
Karros.

"It was an interesting running technique, that's a polite way
to put it," Karros said. "He's pretty close to clotheslining me,
too."

Karros grimaced in pain as plate umpire Larry Young came up the
line to call Fick out.

"It's an elimination game and you've got to do what you've got
to do," Fick said in a profanity-laced explanation. "I'm not
saying I did it on purpose. But it's ... baseball."

Karros stayed in the game and homered in the eighth. Reliever
Kyle Farnsworth left with a jammed kneecap after slipping while
fielding the ball. It wasn't certain if he would be available
Sunday.

It all added up to more disappointment for Cubs fans, who were
giddy at the prospect of their beloved team finally ending their
frustration. Someone even brought a goat onto the field before the
game.

According to local legend, the owner of a Chicago bar put a
curse on the Cubs when he and his goat were turned away from a 1945
World Series game between the Cubs and Detroit Tigers. The Cubs
have endured more than 50 years of futility since.

"When this series started ... deep down in my heart, I didn't
want to admit it, but I thought it was going to go five games,"
Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "So we've just got to go get it
done in Atlanta."

Game notes
Bernie Williams was the first player to homer from both
sides in a postseason game, doing it for the Yankees in 1995
against Seattle. ... Karros tied the Cubs record for most homers in
a postseason game. Gary Matthews also had two in 1984 against San
Diego.