published Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Wiedmer: Atlanta Braves' season already becoming memorable

Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones (10) celebrates with teammates after hitting a game-winning, two-run home run in the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Atlanta, Wednesday, May 2, 2012. Atlanta won 15-13. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones (10) celebrates with teammates after hitting a game-winning, two-run home run in the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Atlanta, Wednesday, May 2, 2012. Atlanta won 15-13. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The beauty of baseball is that a single game in May rarely stands out over the course of a 162-game schedule. There are just too many remaining games to make it matter.

Of course, that's also one of baseball's greatest flaws. Otherwise, the comeback the Atlanta Braves made last Wednesday night against Philadelphia pitcher Roy Halladay would still be on the lips and minds of every citizen of Braves Nation.

"It's definitely the weirdest win I've ever been a part of," 40-year-old Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones said Thursday, less than 16 hours after his two-run homer in the bottom of the 11th had made the Braves 15-13 winners in a game they'd trailed on separate occasions by six and four runs.

"You just don't come from 6-0 down against Halladay. You just don't. But we did. In fact, we came back twice. I'll remember this one for the rest of my life."

Had this come in October instead of early May, all of baseball would have remembered it. You could even argue that it had more than a few similarities to the St. Louis Cardinals' epic World Series Game 6 win last October against Texas in terms of high drama and late heroics.

Well, you could argue that except for what was at stake, which wasn't much Wednesday instead of only everything in the World Series.

But the odd thing about Jones' assessment was that the Braves had just fallen 4-0 to the Phillies on Thursday, a loss that seemingly negated much of the good done by that 11th-inning miracle.

However, then came Friday night in Colorado with Atlanta down 5-0 in the opening inning. From that point forward, the Braves out-hit the Rockies 19-4. From that point forward, Atlanta outscored the home team 9-3, eventually winning 9-8 in, hmmm, 11 innings.

Just like Wednesday, Jones homered, though not at the finish. Just like Wednesday, the game lasted exactly four hours.

Unlike Wednesday, Eric Hinske played the role of ultimate hero instead of Jones, crushing a titanic two-run blast in the 11th to start Atlanta's nine-game road trip out in style.

"It's awesome," Hinske told reporters afterward. "I'm happy. I'm smiling. To do something like this in extra innings is great."

It's a long, long season. The Braves entered Saturday night's game at Colorado's Coors Field with a 16-11 record, which means the season isn't so much as 20 percent done. But Chipper's time is almost done, his probable Hall of Fame career finished whenever Atlanta's season ends.

In fact, his left knee is such a mess that he openly wondered Thursday if the flight to Denver later that day might prevent him from playing Friday. Even though he clearly wants to play the rest of this season -- and is hugely important to the Braves both on and off the field -- you get the feeling that he could retire long before this season ends.

"I never know from one day to the next," he said. "Hopefully, [manager] Fredi [Gonzalez] will get his cup of coffee in the morning, call his wife, then text me asking how I feel and I'll say, 'I'm doing fine.'"

And Friday night Jones was fine. He played Saturday, too. And why?

"Games like last night," he said of that win over Halladay and the Phillies. "That was epic. It should be an instant classic. That game was phenomenal."

Phenomenal. And weird.

For instance, Braves catcher Brian McCann was poked in the eye by teammate Michael Bourn after his grand slam in the fifth inning tied the game at 6.

Hours later inside the winning locker room, Hinske turned to McCann and said, "Bourn owes you dinner or something, man," according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Replied Bourn: "Whatever he wants. New necklace? Watch? I got it, baby."

Cracked McCann: "I want your friendship."

Then there was the eighth inning, when a Freddie Freeman sacrifice fly put the Braves up 13-12 before Philly tied it in the ninth.

Yet the Braves' Dan Uggla thought it was the ninth instead of the eighth and Atlanta had won. He rushed out and jumped on Freeman, then thought to himself, "Why am I the only one out here?"

Freeman told him, "Get off me, it's the eighth." Later, Freeman said, "It's one of the funniest moments I've been a part of. Glad we won."

Maybe they'll win enough to send Chipper back to the playoffs a final time, and maybe they won't. But coming from at least five runs down to win twice in three nights is certainly a reason to see something special in this team.

If nothing else, Wednesday's win is one of those worth remembering for years to come, if only because it gives us another chance to celebrate the greatness of Jones.

"I got home between 12:30 and 1 [a.m.]," he said. "But it was at least 3:30 before I fell asleep. You're just so amped. You just keep replaying it in your head."

At least that's what that game deserves, regardless of what does or doesn't transpire in any or all of the 137 Braves regular-season contests that follow it.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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