Andruw Jones did his best Kirk Gibson imitation last night, and the Braves rallied to win a game they only led for four outs of action. Trailing 5-4 after the usual Hernandez/King bullpen action, the Braves had Chipper at second with two out and Ugueth Urbina on the mound. Andruw, still out with a hurting knee, pinch-hit for Darren Bragg, and about time too. (Having Bragg around when his duties are confined to pinch-running or giving Sheffield the last couple of innings off in a blowout is one thing. Having him start in center is another.) Andruw fell behind 0-2, then rocketed an outside pitch to center to give the Braves a 6-5 lead.
Russ Ortiz started and had two awful innings to begin the game, falling down 4-0. He then settled down some and held the Rangers scoreless for the next four. He allowed seven hits (two of them homers) and four walks with only four strikeouts; do that, and you’re lucky if you hold them to four runs. Trey Hodges struck out two and allowed a walk in the seventh, then it was the Hernandez and King Show in the eighth. Hernandez faced three men and walked two, then King faced one, who singled in the go-ahead run that certainly wouldn’t have scored if the Braves had a real centerfielder rather than Bragg, whose throw was late and up the line. Gryboski finished the inning on two pitches, and Smoltz saved the game after Andruw’s heroics.
Chipper returned to the lineup and was 3-3 with a walk, scoring two runs. Javy is still out, and Henry Blanco had one hit, a two-run double. Furcal had a hit and a walk and his 100th career stolen base.
The Phillies and the reeling Expos both lost, and the Braves are now five and a half up on the latter and seven on the former… Tonight’s game sees Greg Maddux try to continue his recent good work against Rockies exile John Thomson. (That’s “Thomson” with no A in the middle.) For those outside the SportsSouth area, the game’s on ESPN2, and the Thursday day game on ESPN.