Chipper not counting on competition to collapse

ATLANTA - Third baseman Chipper Jones would love for the Atlanta Braves to squeak into the postseason in the final week of the season.


Jones also calls himself "a realist" as he looks at the seemingly impossible task of passing four teams in the NL wild-card race.

"I've been around this game a long time," Jones said. "I've maybe seen one team collapse. You don't see three or four."

With six games remaining, Atlanta needs need plenty of help from other teams to make the playoffs.

The Braves have won seven of eight entering a three-game series at Philadelphia today, but losing five of their past six against New York all but ended any chance of winning a 15th division title since 1991.

In third place and 5 games back in the NL East, the Atlanta would need a miracle to overtake the first-place Mets. A sweep of the Phillies, however, would move the Braves into a second-place tie with Philadelphia in the division and move them up in the wild-card standings.

Even the possibility of winning a a wild-card berth seems remote, however, considering that Atlanta trails San Diego by 3 games for the NL's final playoff spot.

The Braves must pass the Phillies while other teams help them with wins over the Rockies and Padres.

San Diego began a three-game series Monday night in San Francisco. Colorado visits Los Angeles in a three-game series starting today.

"We're going to play like we've got something to play for this last week," Jones said. "But too many teams have to lose too many games this last week."

In 15 games against Philadelphia this year, Atlanta has won eight times, but the Phillies had taken six of the last eight before Matt Diaz's two-out, three-run double in the ninth rallied the Braves to a 9-8 victory on Sept. 5.

Chuck James (11-10) starts for Atlanta on Tuesday opposite Jamie Moyer (13-11).

The left-handers have each allowed 29 homers, fifth-most in the majors, though James pitched seven scoreless innings in his last outing, a 5-1 win over Florida last week.

That victory ended a nine-start streak in which James went 2-3 with a 5.55 ERA. He allowed at least one homer in each game - 14 overall - before changing his approach against the Marlins.

"Pretty much all I thought about when I was out there was mechanics," James said. "I thought about stuff too much instead of just going out there and pitching."

James said he isn't concerned with his numbers as much as giving the Braves a chance to stay alive in the wild-card race. Entering the final week last year, Atlanta was 18 games and in fourth place in the NL East.

The Braves took some satisfaction out of winning three of four last weekend from Milwaukee, which fell 3 games behind Chicago in the NL Central.

"This was a big series for us," Jones said. "Maybe it may not turn out to be much, but we were using this as a playoff series in case we don't make it."



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