Chipper Jones has always had a flair for the dramatic on his birthday, and his 40th was no except Tuesday when his solo home run off Aaron Harang was key to evening the series between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Harang had mostly smooth sailing most of the night, but Jones teed off on the first pitch of the fifth inning, blasting it over the right-center field wall. The homer was the fifth he has hit on his birthday, tying Todd Helton and Alex Rodriguez for the active players with the most home runs on his birthday.
The homer started what very well could have been a breakout inning. Jason Heyward and Tyler Pastornicky followed with singles before Mike Minor sacrificed them over. Michael Bourn proceeded to draw a walk to load the bags with one out, but the only other run they would score in the inning came when Martin Prado hit a weak grounder to second that was hit too softly to give Mark Ellis any other play but at first.
The game then took a wild turn in the sixth.
Brian McCann led off with a single over the shift that Don Mattingly employed. A walk by Dan Uggla set up Chipper to ground into a double play, and Harang intentionally walked Heyward to get to Pastornicky, but that backfired when a wild pitch allowed McCann to score.
The bottom of the frame produced one of the strangest double plays in recent memory. Though the only damage Minor had incurred came in the first inning on a two-run home run by Juan Rivera, Dee Gordon and Ellis started the inning with singles. Matt Kemp hit into what would have been a traditional double play, but Uggla threw the turn past Freddie Freeman and off the screen in front the Braves' dugout, allowing Gordon to score.
Freeman had noticed that Kemp made a move toward second after running past first base and slapped a tag on him, only to garner a safe call from first base umpire Alan Porter, which was immediately met by vehement protests from Freeman and McCann, who had sprinted all the way up the line. And appeal by Fredi Gonzalez got Porter to call a conference with the other three blue men and reversed the call.
Pastornicky came through with a clutch single to start the ninth and was sacrificed to second by Jack Wilson. After Bourn struck out, Prado pelted a triple over Kemp's head in center to take a 4-3 lead. Pastornicky's three hits were a career high and raised his average 60 points to .227.
Assuming the rain holds off Wednesday, Brandon Beachy will look to keep his 0.47 ERA at its Major League best against Ted Lilly at 10:10.
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