Chipper Jones returned to the Atlanta lineup in a big way last night, homering in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Braves to an exciting win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field.
The veteran slugger will retire at season's end and proved he still has some pop left in his bat for the only team he's ever played for. The Braves hope to ride that momentum to a series win over the Phillies when the two clubs wrap up a three-game set this afternoon.
Jones did not play in Tuesday's 4-2 loss because of a knee issue and was hitless in his last three games before going 3-for-6 with three runs scored and the decisive two-run blast in a 15-13 win.
Jones crushed a Brian Sanches offering over the wall in right-center field and was greeted at home plate by a crowd of excited teammates. The Braves rallied from a 6-0 deficit to even the score with six runs in the bottom of the fifth and grabbed an 8-6 edge with two runs in the sixth inning. The Phillies scored three runs in each of the seventh and eighth inning to take back the lead until a five-run bottom of the eighth gave Atlanta a 13-12 advantage.
Philadelphia would even the score again in the top of the ninth and Jones sent the Turner Field faithful home pleased with a two-run shot in the 11th.
"It was an emotional rollercoaster all night," Jones said. "For us to fall down 6-0 to [Roy] Halladay and come back the way we did time and time again after falling down says a lot about this ballclub."
Brian McCann belted a grand slam, Martin Prado went 3-for-6 with three RBI and Tyler Pastornicky finished with three hits, three runs scored and an RBI for the Braves, who are one-half game behind Washington for the NL East lead and won for the 10th time in 15 tries. Atlanta used eight pitchers to prevail and starter Tommy Hanson avoided a loss after allowing four runs and eight hits in just 3 2/3 innings. Chad Durbin picked up the win for tossing a scoreless 11th inning.
The Braves are 3-3 on a seven-game homestand and will open a nine-game road trip tomorrow with the first of three contests in Colorado.
Atlanta hopes youngster Randall Delgado can get back on the right path when he takes the mound this afternoon. The young right-hander has lost two straight starts after opening the 2012 campaign with back-to-back wins, and is coming off his shortest outing of the season.
Delgado threw 4 1/3 innings in a 4-2 loss versus Pittsburgh on Saturday, allowing fur runs and a season-high eight hits. He has given up nine runs during his losing streak and was reached for five runs in a loss at Arizona on April 22. He has only faced the Phillies once in his career -- a 4-2 setback on Sept. 26, when he tossed five innings of two-run ball for a no-decision.
Meanwhile, the Phillies blew several chances to escape with a win on Tuesday, but both Halladay and the bullpen imploded significantly. Halladay, who had been 107-0 coming in when his teams give him at least a four-run lead, was victimized by McCann's grand slam and his night was over after allowing the Braves to grab an 8-6 lead in the sixth inning.
"When you have games like this and your teammates are out there grinding, you feel like you've let them down," said Halladay. "They were getting it done and I didn't and that's the difference tonight."
Carlos Ruiz hit a three-run home run and drove in a career-high seven runs while Laynce Nix added a three-run double for the Phillies, who entered the night having won two straight and five of seven games, and were outhit by a 19-17 margin. Sanches took the loss for surrendering Jones' homer in the 11th.
The Phillies hope to earn a series win today before heading to Washington for a three-game series over the weekend.
Phils starter Joe Blanton was able to stop a personal two-start losing streak his last time out and will toe the rubber again today at Turner Field. Blanton held the Chicago Cubs to a pair of runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings of a 5-2 win on Saturday and struck out a season-high eight batters with no walks.
Blanton improved to 2-3 in five games (4 starts) and lowered his earned run average from 4.34 to 3.81. The bulky right-hander, however, hasn't been so hot on the road this season, going 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA in three games, two of which have been starts.
He hasn't fared well either against Atlanta in his career and is 1-4 with a 5.43 ERA in 11 games (10 starts). Blanton owns an 0-2 mark in six appearances (5 starts) at Turner Field.
Atlanta was eliminated from postseason contention last year by the Phillies and went 6-12 in this series in 2011.