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Atlanta at Pittsburgh

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Atlanta (94-68) «1001020004100
Pittsburgh (79-83)000000000040

Chipper singles in regular-season farewell; Braves shut out Pirates

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- The storybook ending for Chipper Jones would have been putting a fastball into the Allegheny River.

At age 40, however, Jones doesn't try to mash the baseball so much as massage it. Instead, the Atlanta Braves third baseman had to settle for bookending his 19-year career with pinch-hit singles.

Jones rapped an A.J. Burnett pitch to right field in his final regular-season at-bat and the Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 on Wednesday.

"I'd like to thank A.J. for coming right at me," Jones said with a laugh after collecting the 2,726th and final regular-season hit of his 19-year career.

Jones entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth. Batting left-handed, he took the first pitch he saw from Burnett and laced it to the outfield, proving a nice bit of symmetry. Jones singled in the first at-bat of his career against Cincinnati on Sept. 14, 1993.

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"I got to go out the same way I came in," Jones said.

The Braves ended 1993 in the NL Championship Series, though Jones didn't play. They're hoping to do the same this season after grabbing the top wild-card spot. Atlanta hosts defending world champion St. Louis on Friday, with the winner advancing to the division series.

"Now we've got to get over this one-game playoff thing to give ourselves a legitimate shot at what we were all shooting for out of spring training," Jones said.

While Jones is heading to the postseason, Atlanta pitcher Ben Sheets is almost certainly not. Still, the veteran right-hander who has been dogged by injuries in recent years was able to go out on his own terms.

Sheets pitched one scoreless inning in what he has said will be his final major-league appearance, striking out two -- including Pittsburgh star Andrew McCutchen -- while hitting 96 mph on the radar gun.

"It felt great," Sheets said. "It was as good as anything I could probably draw up."

Sheets is unlikely to be placed on Atlanta's postseason roster, but with a playoff spot secure and nothing really to lose, the Braves sent the four-time All-Star to the mound one last time. He needed just a couple minutes to get loose and when he walked back to the dugout after three quick outs, he knew he was done.

Asked if he would consider sticking around to find a spot in a bullpen somewhere, Sheets just smiled and said, "Dude, I'm good."

So are the 94-win Braves, who are heading into the postseason with some momentum after a stunning collapse last fall forced them to watch the playoffs on television.

Instead of swooning down the stretch this year, they've surged. Atlanta is 20-10 since Sept. 1.

"A little bit different than last year as I recall," Jones said. "I think we'll look back on [last] September as a learning experience. No better example of that than the way we played this September."

Jason Heyward singled twice and scored two runs for the Braves while Luis Avilan (1-0) won on a day Atlanta used eight pitchers to hold Pittsburgh to four hits.

"We got some stuff accomplished today and we got the win," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "A lot of good stuff."

Burnett (16-10) gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings for Pittsburgh. The Pirates finished 79-83, extending their record streak of losing seasons to 20.

"We needed to win our games," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Our goal was to win more games."

A regular-season finale that looked like it might be important a month ago had a decidedly spring training feel after the Pirates collapsed down the stretch.

Pittsburgh was 62-46 on Aug. 8 but finished on a 17-37 slide, though the team's 79 wins tied for the most since the infamous streak began following a loss to the Braves in the 1992 NL Championship Series.

"You have to try and take some positives from it," said McCutchen, who hit .327 this season to finish second behind San Francisco's Buster Posey for the NL batting title. "Every year is hard to take when you don't end up where you want to be. Every year is tough."

Maybe none, however, were more painful than this one. The Pirates were the talk of baseball over the summer behind a pitching staff that flourished behind Burnett, who embraced the roll of ace the team desperately needed. He won eight straight decisions in the spring but tailed off over the final two months and couldn't avoid his fifth loss in his six starts, though he exited to a warm ovation.

"I thought he had an exceptional season," Hurdle said of Burnett. "He took ownership of the trade, the career, the opportunity to re-ignite himself."

Notes

  • The Pirates drew 2,091,918 to PNC Park this season, the second-highest total in team history. The average attendance of 26,149 was up from 23,956 in 2011.
  • The Braves will start RHP Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA) Friday against Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86).
  • The Pirates open the 2013 season at home on April 1 against the Chicago Cubs.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Chipper Jones gets his regular-season finale out of the way; now he leads Jason Heyward and the Braves into the playoffs.  (US Presswire)
Chipper Jones gets his regular-season finale out of the way; now he leads Jason Heyward and the Braves into the playoffs. (US Presswire)

Players of the Game
Atlanta

J. Heyward
AB 3
R 2
H 2
HR 0
RBI 0
Pittsburgh

J. Harrison
AB 3
R 0
H 1
HR 0
RBI 0
 
Atlanta Braves
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Michael Bourn, CF1100100 .274
    Jose Constanza, CF2000000 .250
Martin Prado, LF1001000 .301
    Julio Teheran, P0000000 .000
    Randall Delgado, P0000000 .240
   a- Chipper Jones, PH1110000 .287
    Reed Johnson, RF1010000 .290
Jason Heyward, RF3220000 .269
    Cory Gearrin, P0000000 .000
   b- Eric Hinske, PH-1B1000012 .197
Freddie Freeman, 1B4000022 .259
    Eric O'Flaherty, P0000000 .000
    Jonny Venters, P0000000 .000
    Tyler Pastornicky, SS0000000 .243
Dan Uggla, 2B3011120 .220
Brian McCann, C2020000 .230
    J.C. Boscan, C2011010 .200
Juan Francisco, 3B4001011 .234
Andrelton Simmons, SS4010003 .289
    Craig Kimbrel, P0000000 .000
Ben Sheets, P0000000 .000
    Luis Avilan, P0000000 .333
   c- Jeff Baker, PH-LF4010021 .239
Totals33410429  
a-singled for Delgado in the 6th
b-struck out for Gearrin in the 7th
c-grounded out for Avilan in the 3rd
Batting
SF - Martin Prado (9)
SH - Jose Constanza (2)
RBI - Martin Prado (70), Dan Uggla (78), J.C. Boscan (2), Juan Francisco (32)
SB - Michael Bourn 2 (42, 2nd base off Burnett/Barajas, 3rd base off Burnett/Barajas), Jason Heyward (21, 2nd base off Burnett/Barajas)
PK - Andrelton Simmons (1, Burnett)
Team LOB - 6
Atlanta Braves
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Ben Sheets 1000020 3.47
Luis Avilan (W,1-0) 1100010 2.00
Julio Teheran 2100000 5.68
Randall Delgado 1000030 4.37
Cory Gearrin 1000000 1.80
Eric O'Flaherty 1000000 1.73
Jonny Venters 1100020 3.22
Craig Kimbrel 1100030 1.01
Pitches-Strikes - Ben Sheets 12-8, Luis Avilan 23-16, Julio Teheran 25-16, Randall Delgado 18-12, Cory Gearrin 12-8, Eric O'Flaherty 11-7, Jonny Venters 10-8, Craig Kimbrel 15-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ben Sheets 1-0, Luis Avilan 2-0, Julio Teheran 3-2, Cory Gearrin 3-0, Eric O'Flaherty 2-1, Jonny Venters 1-0
Batters Faced - Ben Sheets 3, Luis Avilan 4, Julio Teheran 6, Randall Delgado 3, Cory Gearrin 3, Eric O'Flaherty 3, Jonny Venters 4, Craig Kimbrel 4
Pittsburgh Pirates
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Starling Marte, LF-CF4000021 .257
Alex Presley, RF-LF4000011 .237
Andrew McCutchen, CF3010010 .327
    Jose Tabata, RF1000011 .243
Garrett Jones, 1B3000001 .274
Pedro Alvarez, 3B3000030 .244
Josh Harrison, 2B3010010 .233
Clint Barmes, SS3010011 .229
Rod Barajas, C3000011 .206
A.J. Burnett, P1000000 .063
    Chad Qualls, P0000000 .000
   a- Brock Holt, PH1000000 .292
    Hisanori Takahashi, P0000000 .000
    Chris Leroux, P0000000 .000
    Rick VandenHurk, P0000000 .000
   b- Travis Snider, PH1010000 .250
Totals30040011  
a-grounded out for Qualls in the 6th
b-singled for VandenHurk in the 9th
Batting
PK - Andrew McCutchen (4, Teheran)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
DP - Harrison-Barmes-G. Jones
Pittsburgh Pirates
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
A.J. Burnett (L,16-10) 5.2844230 3.51
Chad Qualls 0.1000000 5.33
Hisanori Takahashi 1200020 5.54
Chris Leroux 1000030 5.56
Rick VandenHurk 1000010 13.50
Pitches-Strikes - A.J. Burnett 88-56, Chad Qualls 2-1, Hisanori Takahashi 14-12, Chris Leroux 15-11, Rick VandenHurk 22-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - A.J. Burnett 9-3, Chad Qualls 1-0, Hisanori Takahashi 1-0, Rick VandenHurk 1-1
Batters Faced - A.J. Burnett 25, Chad Qualls 1, Hisanori Takahashi 5, Chris Leroux 3, Rick VandenHurk 3
Game Information
Attendance - 20615
Game Time - 2:45
Temperature - 69
Umpires - Home - Cory Blaser, First Base - Chris Guccione, Second Base - Jeff Nelson, Third Base - Bill Welke