Jones’ 2-run homer lifts Braves past Cubs, 3-2

AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA (AP) Chipper Jones likes the new look of Atlanta’s bullpen.

Questions about Chicago’s bullpen already are starting to irritate Lou Piniella.

Jones hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning, setting up Billy Wagner’s first save, and the Braves held off the Cubs 3-2 on Wednesday night.

Martin Prado hit a one-out double off left-hander John Grabow (0-1), ending a string of 15 consecutive outs by Braves batters, before Jones connected for his first homer of the season.

“You just felt like that was an opportunity to at least get the game tied,” Jones said. “I’m not thinking homer there. I’m thinking get the run in, hit the ball in the gap.”

Jones hit a high changeup over the wall in left-center.

“I had a lefty coming up behind me, and I didn’t feel he was going to give in and give me a fastball,” Jones said.

Cubs relievers have allowed 10 runs, eight earned, in two losses. One bright spot has been Sean Marshall, who struck out two in a perfect seventh inning in relief of Ryan Dempster.

Piniella was indignant when asked if Marshall’s role might change.

“We’ve played two games,” Piniella said. “We’re not in our 22nd game or our 42nd game, for God’s sake. It was just a tough loss. Let’s leave it at that.”

Peter Moylan (1-0) worked around a hit and a walk during a scoreless eighth and Wagner finished for his first save with the Braves. Alfonso Soriano singled with one out in the ninth but the left-hander responded by striking out pinch-hitter Xavier Nady and Geovany Soto to end the game.

“In the past teams still felt like they had a chance and could score on us late,” Jones said, adding Wagner “takes the air out of people’s sails.”

Wagner, 38, earned his first save since elbow ligament-replacement surgery in 2008.

“That’s always fun. That’s instant adrenaline,” said Wagner, who signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Atlanta over the winter.

The Braves also added Takashi Saito to their bullpen in the offseason. Wagner and Saito replaced Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez.

Dempster gave up one run and three hits in six innings. He struck out nine and left with a 2-1 lead.

The right-hander struck out Troy Glaus and Yunel Escobar with the bases loaded in the third and didn’t allow another baserunner.

“I cruised after that,” Dempster said. “Unfortunately, in the second and third innings I ran my pitch count up. I have to keep my pitch count down a little better.”

Dempster, who threw 95 pitches, was pulled for pinch-hitter Chad Tracy in the top of the seventh.

Braves phenom Jason Heyward hit an RBI double in the second and finished 1 for 3 with two strikeouts. The 20-year-old rookie homered and drove in four runs in his major league debut on Monday.

The Cubs scored two unearned runs off Jair Jurrjens in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead. With one out and the bases loaded, Dempster hit a sharp grounder to first base that Troy Glaus bobbled for an error, allowing Soriano to score. Ryan Theriot followed with a sacrifice fly to center.

Soriano helped set up the inning when he beat out a potential double-play grounder in a close play. Braves manager Bobby Cox briefly argued first-base umpire Marvin Hudson’s call.

Jurrjens allowed five hits over five innings, with two walks and two strikeouts.

Dempster gained momentum after the third, striking out Heyward and Nate McLouth to open the fourth and Melky Cabrera and Prado to open the fifth.

NOTES: Glaus had four strikeouts, giving him six in his first two games with the Braves. … Kosuke Fukudome singled and stole second in the eighth, the Cubs’ first stolen base of the season. … CF Jordan Schafer, who opened the 2009 season as the Braves’ starter, had his left hand and wrist examined, and was scheduled to report to the team’s minor league camp on Thursday. After being sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett last season, Schafer had season-ending surgery on the wrist on Sept. 5 and has been discouraged that the injury has been slow to heal. … Former Atlanta RHP John Smoltz, who has not retired but has agreed to work on some local telecasts of Braves games, visited the Braves’ dugout during batting practice. Smoltz also will serve as an analyst for the TBS and networks.

Updated April 7, 2010