PITTSBURGH -- Those who have watched Chipper Jones throughout his career have marveled at his ability to consistently deliver in the clutch and rise to the occasion during special moments.
Jones delighted the fans once again and added to the memories of his final season by collecting a hit in the final regular-season at-bat of his storied career. His pinch-hit single to lead off the sixth inning of Wednesday afternoon's 4-0 win against the Pirates fittingly closed yet another chapter in the iconic tenure he has had with the Braves.
Jones tipped his batting helmet after the appreciative crowd at PNC Park acknowledged his pinch-hit appearance with a standing ovation. Seconds later, the 40-year-old veteran third baseman laced A.J. Burnett's first-pitch fastball through the right side of the infield.
In fitting fashion, Jones concluded the regular-season portion of his career the same way that he started it. He singled in his first career at-bat off the Reds' Kevin Wickander on Sept. 14, 1993. The first and last hits of his career were separated by 19 years and 19 days.
"I wanted to go out the same way that I came in," Jones said. "Obviously the storybook would be to hit the ball in the river. But I don't try to do that as much as I used to. I'm happy with the slap singles to right. You only have one first at-bat and one last at-bat. They're both memorable."
After delivering the clean single, Jones made his way around the bases and scored the final regular-season run of his career on J.C. Boscan's single. As he entered the dugout, he tossed his batting gloves into the stands.
"I've been working on some stuff the last couple of days and it's nice to get a nice result out of it," Jones said. "I thank A.J. for coming right at me."
Jones had planned to be in the lineup for the final regular-season game of his career on Wednesday afternoon. But with his left knee and back bothering him, Jones opted to take advantage of one more chance to rest before the postseason.
"I just really needed some time," Jones said. "I expected to play today or at least give it the old Spring Training try, a couple of at-bats. I'd much rather have a couple days off. Usually when I take a day or two, 36 or 48 hours, I feel great the next day. Hopefully, this is no different."
Jones believes he will be refreshed and feeling good when the Braves host the Cardinals in a one-game Wild Card playoff at Turner Field on Friday. Along with sitting during most of the final two games of this week's series against the Pirates, he will get another chance to rest when the Braves are off on Thursday.
Cognizant of the fact that many fans had traveled to PNC Park to see his final game, Jones entered Wednesday's regular-season finale with the expectation to make a pinch-hit plate appearance. He took the Braves' lineup card to home plate before the game.
Along with being emotionally drained by what he experienced during his final homestand last week, Jones was physically drained after being in the starting lineup for a seventh consecutive day for Monday's series opener against the Pirates.
Once the Braves lost their chance to win the National League East on Monday, Jones decided it was time to listen to his body.
"I wanted to be in the starting lineup for all of the home games, and quite honestly the only reason I didn't take Monday off was because I had so many friends and family members in the stands here," Jones said. "I figured I would let the chips fall where they may as far as the division. Obviously if we were still in it, I would have still been in there last night. But I'm going to get more out of these two days off than I would have to strap it up for a couple [at-bats] each game."
During the latter portion of Tuesday night's game, some fans began chanting "We Want Chipper." This prompted manager Fredi Gonzalez to glance at Jones, who made it known he was not feeling good enough to even record a pinch-hit appearance.
Having some fun with the situation, some of the players did their part to agitate Gonzalez.
"We were all laughing in there," Jones said. "Everybody was getting in on the chant in the dugout too. I think they like to see Fredi squirm a little bit."