- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 26, 2005

ATLANTA — When Andruw Jones walked to the plate to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning yesterday, the cheer from the stands showed the fans were thinking the same thing as Jones’ teammates: home run.

Jones delivered, lifting a 1-2 pitch just over the left-field wall to give Atlanta a 5-4 win over Baltimore as the Braves recovered after wasting a four-run lead.

“I was trying to get it over with, and I came through,” Jones said.

The homer gave Jones the major league lead with 23. He has hit home runs in six of the last eight games — including a two-homer game — and has carried the Braves since Chipper Jones hurt a foot, an injury expected to sideline him for four to six weeks.

“It’s getting to the point where it wasn’t exactly a big surprise because he hadn’t hit a home run yet and he hits about one a night,” said Atlanta’s Adam LaRoche, whose pinch-hit single broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning.

“He’s in one of those periods where you do expect it,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Nothing is going to shock you.”

Atlanta took a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning, but Baltimore scored one run in the eighth and tied the game with three runs off closer Chris Reitsma in the ninth.

“To come back like that and to lose it on the first hitter, it’s a bitter pill to swallow,” Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Jones’ homer off Todd Williams (4-4) gave the Braves their seventh win in nine games.

“I’m not trying to lead the league in home runs,” Jones said. “I’m just trying to go out and hit the ball and make my team win.”

The homer just escaped the reach of left fielder David Newhan, a late-game replacement for starter Larry Bigbie.

“I should have left the 6-foot-2 guy in there,” Mazzilli said, referring to Bigbie, who is four inches taller than Newhan.

Jones, hitting cleanup, had three hits and two RBI.

One day after falling out of first place in the AL East for the first time since April23, the Orioles lost for the ninth time in 11 road games. They have lost four straight games, their longest skid of the season, including the first two games of the three-game weekend series.

Trailing 4-1, the Orioles rallied in the top half of the ninth against Reitsma, who had forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk in the eighth. Consecutive singles by Sal Fasano, Newhan and Brian Roberts drove in one run.

Luis Matos followed with a bunt single, and Newhan scored on a throwing error by third baseman Wilson Betemit. After Miguel Tejada’s grounder forced out Matos at second, Rafael Palmeiro singled in the tying run.

Reitsma, who blew his third save opportunity in nine chances, was pulled in favor of rookie Jorge Vasquez (1-0), who loaded the bases with a walk to Sammy Sosa. Vasquez then retired pinch-hitter Geronimo Gil on an inning-ending double play.

Roman Colon pitched six scoreless innings in his first major league start for Atlanta, allowing four hits and one walk and striking out four. He was 0-3 with an 8.50 ERA in 18 games as a reliever before he was optioned to Class AA Mississippi on June11, then was recalled yesterday.

“The guys said we’ll help you if you just go five,” Colon said. “Today I say how about six? Next time, maybe seven.”

Baltimore starter Bruce Chen threw 42/3 shutout innings before leaving with a sprained big toe on his left foot. X-rays were negative.

Atlanta went ahead with four runs in the seventh off Jorge Julio.

Betemit led off the seventh with a double to center, the Braves’ first extra-base hit. LaRoche singled to drive in the go-ahead run, Rafael Furcal sacrificed, Kelly Johnson was intentionally walked and Julio threw a pair of wild pitches, the latter on ball four to Marcus Giles as pinch-runner Pete Orr scored.

Jones’ RBI single chased Julio, and Julio Franco had a run-scoring infield single to shortstop off Steve Kline.

Baltimore loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth off Jim Brower, who gave up hits to Roberts and Tejada, then walked Sosa. Reitsma relieved, forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk to Bigbie and retired Chris Gomez on a groundout.

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