Chipper's milestone game backs Medlen's shutout
Many of the 33,157 fans in attendance at Turner Field on Thursday night were drawn by the opportunity to secure a Jones bobblehead doll. They exited with the thrill of having seen their favorite third baseman answer two curtain calls.
Jones' first multihomer performance in more than three years backed Kris Medlen's first career shutout and carried the Braves to a 6-0 win over the Padres.
"I know he's real because I've touched him," Braves manager Fredi Gonzale said. "Some of the stuff he's done is incredible."
Medlen's first career complete game might have been the most important development for the Braves, who have won 17 of their past 22 games. But most of the evening's excitement was generated by Jones' 40th career multihomer performance and first since June 7, 2009.
"It was awesome to watch him do that," Medlen said. "It just happened to be on a start I had and my best career start so far."
Jones got the Braves rolling by drilling a two-out, two-run homer off Jason Marquis in the first inning. The 40-year-old added to his memorable evening by teaming with Jason Heyward to hit back-to-back two-out home runs off Marquis in the four-run fifth inning.
Both home runs were followed by curtain calls. Before answering the first one, Jones was so amped up that he spilled a cup of water over the front of his jersey before making his way to the top of the dugout to acknowledge the crowd.
"I hear the chants and I hear the standing ovations, and it's a little overwhelming, because this normally is a crowd that is pretty laid back, like Atlanta, like me -- I would be the same way," Jones said. "For them to show their appreciation like that is very overwhelming."
Jones' fifth-inning solo shot was the 2,700th hit of his career, making him the sixth switch-hitter in Major League history to reach this mark.
"He raises his game and that's why at the end of his career [five] years down the road they're going to put a plaque in the Hall of Fame, because not many guys can do that," Gonzalez said.
While Jones is preparing to retire at the end of this season, Medlen appears committed to remain in the starting rotation. The Braves have won each of the past 15 games that he has started dating back to May 29, 2010.
This matches the franchise record that John Smoltz set when the Braves won 15 consecutive games that he started during his 1996 National League Cy Young Award-winning season.
Since Medlen moved from the bullpen to the rotation, the versatile right-hander has totaled 25 2/3 innings over four starts and allowed just three runs. These results give strong indication that he will remain in the rotation when the Braves return to a five-man rotation on Aug. 31.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Medlen said. "I don't even really know what to say. Overall it's another win, and we have a lot more to go."
One of the most athletic pitchers the Braves have recently possessed, Medlen preserved his shutout while skillfully handling a number of comebackers to the mound. He caught the attention of his teammates when he bounced off the mound in the third inning and grabbed a Everth Cabrera grounder before turning and making a throw that retired Marquis at the plate.
"I knew the pitcher was on third, and at the time it, was a 2-0 game and it would have been a one-run game so I thought it was a big run," Medlen said. "I turned and looked, and I was either going to throw it or not because I knew I still had time for first base."
Heyward's two-out solo shot in the fifth inning enabled him to reach the 20-homer mark for the first time in his career. At the same time, it sparked the two-out flurry that included a Dan Uggla double and Paul Janish's two-run single off Brad Boxberger.
But the evening's tone was set when Jones battled through his six-pitch first-inning at-bat. After falling behind with a 1-2 count, he looked at two sliders that missed the strike zone. When Marquis opted to throw a fifth consecutive slider, Jones drilled the pitch over the right-field wall.
Jones' two-homer performance adds to the long list of memories Jones has created since announcing his retirement plans in March. He homered in his first game of the season and again in his first home game of the season. A Dodgers fan growing up, he singled in his final regular-season at-bat at Dodger Stadium and capped a memorable 15-13 win over the Phillies in May with a walk-off hit.
Jones delighted the baseball world when he singled during his only at-bat in last month's All-Star Game. Now it appears he is ready to continue creating special moments during special occasions."Every night, we motivate ourselves in some way shape or form," Jones said. "But there are certain nights when it's special, whether you've got certain family members in the seats or it's your birthday -- or it's bobblehead night, whatever. You want to make a splash and bring people to their feet. Tonight was just another of those handful of games this year that have been awfully special for me."