Chipper Jones debut lifts Atlanta Braves to first win 6-4 over Houston Astros
By AP FeedFoxSports
Chipper Jones was worried his timing would be off after missing time with a knee injury.
The Atlanta Braves' star third baseman quickly realized there was no need for concern.
Jones came off the disabled list and began his final season in the majors with a single and a two-run homer to help the Braves get their first win of the season, 6-4 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
''He won our game singlehandedly, really,'' Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The nearly 40-year-old Jones didn't look a bit rusty in his return after missing Atlanta's first four games following surgery on March 26 to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. The switch-hitter, who plans to retire at the end of this season, singled in his first at-bat and hit a left-handed homer, the 455th of his career, in the third inning to put the Braves up 3-1.
Jones brushed off the notion that he was the boost that finally got the Braves in the win column.
''I'm not going to say I was the spark,'' he said. ''Obviously, the two-run homer was a big lift, but I'd much rather be a calming influence, have them look down there, see me and know that I'm going to put up some good at-bats and hopefully make the play when it's hit to me. And if they feed off that, great.''
The Braves had talked about sending Jones on a rehabilitation assignment in the minors before his return, but he opted to come straight back to the big league team.
''I'm glad that we didn't make him go on that rehab assignment,'' Gonzalez said with a laugh.
Houston manager Brad Mills talked about how having Jones back changed the Braves.
''He had a big night, but even if he doesn't have that big night, it just spreads out that lineup a little bit and definitely gives them a little more weaponry,'' Mills said.
Rookie Tyler Pastornicky added a solo shot for the Braves, sending his first major-league homer into the Crawford Boxes in left field to push Atlanta's lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning.
Atlanta starter Tommy Hanson (1-1) yielded six hits and two runs with eight strikeouts in five innings for the win. Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save.
Jordan Schafer singled in the seventh before scoring after consecutive one-out singles that chased Kris Medlen. Chris Johnson's two-out single scored J.D. Martinez and got Houston within 5-4 with runners at first and second.
Eric O'Flaherty escaped the jam by striking out Chris Snyder to end the inning.
Pinch-hitter Eric Hinske drove in an insurance run with a single in the eighth inning that made it 6-4.
Kyle Weiland (0-1), who joined the Astros in an offseason trade from Boston, allowed eight hits and four runs in five innings.
''My intensity was a little too high,'' Weiland said. ''I wasn't nervous, but I was just overly excited. That is where the command came into problems.''
The loss spoiled a special day for Houston, which entered the game having won three straight.
The Astros, who began as the Colt .45s, celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first game on Tuesday by wearing throwbacks fashioned after the original Colt .45 uniforms. The white uniforms featured the word ''Colts'' in orange lettering with a pistol below it.
Major League Baseball had initially objected to having the pistol on these jerseys, which will also be worn April 20, but rescinded the objection in March, allowing them to wear the original 1962 uniform design.
Five members of the 1962 team attended the game and Bob Aspromonte, who started the team's first game, threw out the first pitch.
Brian McCann hit a two-out single in the third and scored on a double to center field by Dan Uggla to tie it at 1-1. The homer by Jones, which landed in the first row of right-field seats, put Atlanta up 3-1. A television shot showed Jones' father Larry Jones, saying: `It's out of here,' as he and Jones' mother Lynne stood and cheered.
Schafer singled, stole second and third base, and scored on a single by Carlos Lee to get Houston within 4-2 in the fifth. Schafer, who came to Houston last summer in the trade for Atlanta's Michael Bourn, finished with three hits and three stolen bases.
Lee had three hits, two walks and drove in two runs.
Bourn walked to start the seventh inning and stole second base. He advanced to third on a groundout and pushed Atlanta's lead to 5-2 when he scored on a fielder's choice.
Johnson doubled with one out and scored on a two-out single by rookie Marwin Gonzalez to put Houston up 1-0 in the second inning.
NOTES: OF Jose Constanza was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett before the game to make room for Jones on the roster. ... Houston SS Jed Lowrie, on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right thumb, had one hit and two RBIs in a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. ... The Astros went 5 for 18 with runners in scoring position.