The Associated Press
DENVER Ÿ Greg Maddux wasn't at his masterful best. Chipper Jones, however, was.
As for Don Baylor, the Colorado manager ran out of position players with two outs in the ninth and the bases loaded. Baylor had to use pitcher Lance Painter as a pinch-hitter. Painter struck out.
The result was a 5-4 victory by the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night in the opener of their NL playoff series, the first postseason game in the Rockies' three-year history.
Jones' second solo homer broke a 4-4 tie in the ninth to win it for Atlanta. In the eighth, with runners on first and third, he made a key defensive play, making a diving stop of Andres Galarraga's shot down the third-base line and throwing out a runner at second. Instead of a big inning, Colorado managed only one run.
''The play Jones made down the line was probably the game-winner for them,'' Baylor said. ''That's a two-run double if he doesn't make the play. Then he hits the game-winning home run.''
Jones said his stop was ''just a reaction play. Andres has a tendency to hit some balls down the third-base line for doubles. I saw it was an off-speed pitch and was sort of leaning that way. The only way I'm going to make that play is to lay out. If it sticks, hopefully we get an out. If it doesn't, they probably have a big inning. Luckily, it stuck.''
Jones hit an inside fastball for the decisive homer, then hopped around the bases in jubilation.
''I was looking for a certain pitch and got that exact pitch,'' he said. ''It was a tremendous thrill. In a big situation, with the game on the line in the ninth, it was probably my biggest career highlight.''
Asked if he still considered Jones to be a rookie, Braves manager Bobby Cox said, ''I think of Chipper Jones as rookie of the year.''
Cox said he had been in late-game situations where he was forced to send a pitcher to the plate. ''It happens,'' he said.
Baylor, in his third year as manager, said it was a first for him.
''But I know when I pinch-hit for my catcher, I'm asking for trouble later. That wasn't the ballgame, though. Having chances in the seventh, eighth and ninth and not doing it Ÿ that was the game.''
The Braves had to sweat out the victory when the Rockies loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning.
Closer Mark Wohlers retired the first batter, then gave up back-to-back singles to Mike Kingery and Dante Bichette. Wohlers walked Larry Walker to fill the bases, then fanned Andres Galarraga.
Baylor, who had played all five of his substitutes, was forced to pinch-hit Painter, one of 12 pitchers on the Colorado roster and the designated starter for Game Two on Wednesday night.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, Jones homered to right-center off Rockies closer Curtis Leskanic. Jones also homered in the sixth, starting a rally that produced a 3-3 tie.
Dwight Smith's two-out, pinch-hit single in the eighth gave the Braves a 4-3 lead, but Colorado countered on Ellis Burks' RBI double in its half.
Rockies reliever Mike Munoz retired the first two batters in the eighth but surrendered a single to Ryan Klesko. Darren Holmes replaced Munoz and gave up a single to Javy Lopez. Smith, batting for Jeff Blauser, singled to right for a 4-3 lead.
Dante Bichette drew a leadoff walk off Greg McMichael in the Rockies' half. Walker singled to right, with Bichette taking third on right fielder David Justice's bobble. Jones made a diving stop of Galarraga's shot down the third-base line and threw out Walker at second, with Bichette holding at third. Alejandro Pena then served up the RBI double to Burks.
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