|Atlanta (74-52) «||1||0||2||0||0||1||0||0||x||4||8||0|
ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones is feeling as good as he has all year.
So good, in fact, that everyone can quit speculating he might retire.
Jones homered for the second night in a row and third time on the homestand, helping the Atlanta Braves to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in a matchup of NL playoff contenders Friday night.
He also ended any speculation this might be his last year, though he had said as far back as spring training that he intended to play out the remainder of a $42 million contract that runs through 2012.
"I feel like I'm contributing," the 39-year-old Jones said. "Now, am I putting up numbers like I did in the late '90s and early 2000s? No. But I'm still helping us win ballgames."
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Michael Bourn and Brian McCann also homered for the Braves, accounting for the rest of their runs. Derek Lowe combined with four relievers on a six-hitter, leading Atlanta to its fourth win in five games against the two best teams in the NL West.
The Braves took three of four from the San Francisco Giants, winning the finale of that series 1-0 Thursday night on Jones' solo homer.
Last season, Jones considered retiring in the midst of a terrible slump, turned things around, then tore up his left knee in August. That made him more determined to come back for 2011, and he never seriously considered cutting out on a contact that will pay him another $14 million next season.
"This is definitely not a situation where I'm going to say I'm retiring at the end of the year," Jones said. "I feel like I've played well this year."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez isn't thinking ahead to next season, but he was glad to hear Jones put off any talk of retirement. The third baseman has shaken off several nagging injuries to hit .275 with 12 homers and 56 RBI.
"He's a big presence in our lineup," Gonzalez said, "and in that locker room."
Bourn led off the bottom of the first with his first homer since coming to the Braves in a trade last month. McCann added a two-run shot in the third, and Jones extended the lead in the sixth with an opposite-field drive to left-center.
Lowe (8-11) turned in his best effort in nearly two months, allowing four hits and striking out seven over the first five innings. He started the sixth by plunking Justin Upton with a pitch, then walked Miguel Montero after Upton stole second.
Gonzalez immediately popped from the dugout on ball four, turning to the bullpen after Lowe's 99th pitch of the night. Rookie Arodys Vizcaino got out of the jam, striking out Ryan Roberts and Lyle Overbay before Chris Young flied out to right-center, just short of the warning track.
"That's obviously not as far as I'd like to go," said Lowe, who has yet to pitch more than seven innings this season. "With my track record in the sixth, Fredi didn't want it to snowball. I don't blame him. You've got to earn the right to pitch deep into games."
Eric O'Flaherty came on in the seventh, facing another mess after Vizcaino walked two straight hitters with one out. This time, the Diamondbacks broke through. Upton drilled a two-out double to the gap in right-center, bringing home both runners to cut Atlanta's lead in half.
But that was it. The Braves turned to their dynamic finishing duo, with Jonny Venters breezing through the eighth on seven pitches and Craig Kimbrel working around a bunt single and a walk for his 38th save in 43 chances. The closer has now gone 29 consecutive appearances without allowing a run, covering more than two months and 29 2/3 innings.
The last team to score against Kimbrel was the New York Mets on June 14.
"The back end of our bullpen did what it always does," Jones said.
Daniel Hudson (12-9) went six innings, giving up seven hits and losing for the fourth time in his last six starts. The right-hander threw an even 100 pitches.
"I thought I threw some decent pitches tonight," Hudson said. "They're a good veteran lineup over there. I couldn't get them to really chase a lot of pitches off the plate. They made me pay for a couple of mistakes."
Hudson's fourth pitch wound up in the right-field seats. Bourn, who does most of his damage with speed, went deep for his second homer of the season.
With two outs in the third, Hudson walked Jose Constanza and paid a steep price. McCann drove a 1-1 pitch into the seats for his 20th homer of the season.
The Braves came into the night far behind Philadelphia in the NL East but extended their lead over San Francisco in the wild-card race to seven games. Arizona remained 2½ games ahead of the defending World Series champion Giants in the West, but lost its third in a row.
The skid came after a seven-game winning streak pushed them past San Francisco into first place.
"Things aren't going smooth for us right now, but that's part of it," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. "It's not a big deal. We're not going to panic."
|Chipper Jones celebrates his second homer in two games and says he's feeling the best he's felt all season. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Willie Bloomquist, SS||3||0||2||0||2||0||0||.270|
|Gerardo Parra, LF||3||0||0||0||0||1||4||.287|
|a- Collin Cowgill, PH-LF||2||1||0||0||0||1||3||.162|
|Justin Upton, RF||4||0||1||2||0||0||4||.300|
|Miguel Montero, C||3||0||0||0||1||1||1||.267|
|Ryan Roberts, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||2||2||.257|
|Lyle Overbay, 1B||4||0||0||0||0||4||3||.230|
|Chris Young, CF||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.234|
|Kelly Johnson, 2B||4||0||3||0||0||1||0||.213|
|Daniel Hudson, P||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||.320|
|b- Sean Burroughs, PH||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||.240|
|Brad Ziegler, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Joe Paterson, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|c- Paul Goldschmidt, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||.292|
|a-hit into fielder's choice for Parra in the 7th|
|b-walked for Hudson in the 7th|
|c-struck out for Paterson in the 9th|
|2B - Justin Upton (35, O'Flaherty)|
|SH - Daniel Hudson (9)|
|RBI - Justin Upton 2 (77)|
|2-OUT RBI - Justin Upton 2 (39)|
|SB - Willie Bloomquist (13, 2nd base off Lowe/McCann), Justin Upton (19, 2nd base off Lowe/McCann), Kelly Johnson (13, 2nd base off Lowe/McCann)|
|Team LOB - 10|
|DP - Montero-Bloomquist|
|E - Daniel Hudson (1, Throwing)|
|Daniel Hudson (L,12-9)||6||7||4||4||1||5||3||3.83|
|Pitches-Strikes - Daniel Hudson 100-60, Brad Ziegler 7-5, Joe Paterson 27-13|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Daniel Hudson 6-6, Brad Ziegler 1-1, Joe Paterson 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Daniel Hudson 25, Brad Ziegler 3, Joe Paterson 6|
|Michael Bourn, CF||4||1||2||1||0||0||0||.303|
|Jose Constanza, LF||3||1||0||0||1||0||1||.377|
|Brian McCann, C||4||1||1||2||0||1||1||.301|
|Dan Uggla, 2B||3||0||0||0||1||2||0||.228|
|Freddie Freeman, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||.293|
|Chipper Jones, 3B||3||1||2||1||1||0||0||.275|
|Jason Heyward, RF||4||0||1||0||0||1||4||.220|
|Alex Gonzalez, SS||3||0||1||0||0||1||1||.232|
|Derek Lowe, P||2||0||0||0||0||1||2||.186|
|Arodys Vizcaino, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Eric O'Flaherty, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Brooks Conrad, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.241|
|Jonny Venters, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Craig Kimbrel, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-flied out for O'Flaherty in the 7th|
|2B - Jason Heyward (16, Hudson)|
|HR - Michael Bourn (2, Hudson), Brian McCann (20, Hudson), Chipper Jones (12, Hudson)|
|RBI - Michael Bourn (42), Brian McCann 2 (58), Chipper Jones (56)|
|2-OUT RBI - Brian McCann 2 (22), Chipper Jones (16)|
|CS - Michael Bourn (10, 2nd base by Hudson/Montero), Jose Constanza (2, 2nd base by Hudson/Montero)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|PB - Brian McCann (4)|
|Derek Lowe (W,8-11)||5||4||0||0||2||7||0||4.73|
|Arodys Vizcaino (H,1)||1.1||0||2||2||2||3||0||2.70|
|Eric O'Flaherty (H,23)||0.2||1||0||0||0||0||0||1.27|
|Jonny Venters (H,26)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||1.13|
|Craig Kimbrel (S,38)||1||1||0||0||1||2||0||1.75|
|HBP - Upton (by Derek Lowe)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Derek Lowe 99-58, Arodys Vizcaino 24-13, Eric O'Flaherty 9-7, Jonny Venters 7-6, Craig Kimbrel 19-12|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Derek Lowe 4-4, Eric O'Flaherty 2-0, Jonny Venters 2-0, Craig Kimbrel 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Derek Lowe 22, Arodys Vizcaino 6, Eric O'Flaherty 3, Jonny Venters 3, Craig Kimbrel 5|
|Attendance - 30142|
|Game Time - 2:47|
|Temperature - 91|
|Umpires - Home - Tom Hallion, First Base - Bill Miller, Second Base - James Hoye, Third Base - Phil Cuzzi|