HOUSTON -- Surrounded by reporters following Saturday's 7-5 series-clinching victory over the Astros, Chipper Jones was asked about the upcoming NLCS battle against the New York Mets.
Grinning, he fired the first volley by saying, "We obviously know we can beat them. It's going to be wild and crazy, just like all those series are. We've got to go out and play the same way against them as we did all season. We had a pretty good formula working against them."
The Braves were 9-3 against the Mets this season, including winning five of six games in the final 10 days of the season. They won five of six at home and four of six at Shea Stadium, the seventh time since 1990 they have won the season series from the Mets.
"(Our record against the Mets) honestly does not mean anything," manager Bobby Cox said. "The Mets are a good ballclub and so are the Braves. It should be a great series. I think you throw out the records always. I guess nobody believes the managers when they say that, but it's very true."
Cox said he plans to start Greg Maddux in Tuesday night's Game 1 at Turner Field and will probably use the same rotation he did against the Astros. Kevin Millwood, who had a one-hitter Wednesday and a save Friday, will start Game 2, Tom Glavine will go in Game 3 and John Smoltz in Game 4.
The Braves took today off and will work out at Turner Field Monday.
"We handled the Mets as well as anybody," said closer John Rocker, who lit up New York's tabloids with a "I hate the Mets" line last month. "Hopefully things will continue to go our way against them." ...
Standing at the batting cage Saturday morning, hitting coach Don Baylor watched Brian Jordan take some swings and shook his head in wonder.
"Two weeks ago it was like, are we going to have him for the postseason or not?" he said.
At the time, Jordan's right hand was bothering him so much he could barely swing a bat and his power had vanished. Now, thanks to daily treatment with his personal trainer, Bob Kersee, Jordan is feeling so good he has dismissed thoughts of winter surgery and is even contemplating not putting his hand and wrist in a cast for 6-8 weeks following the season to allow it to heal completely.
"I'm just thankful they found a way to get it right," he said. "Now I trust my hands, where before my hand was hurting so bad it was affecting me mentally."
Jordan found the answer just in time to help knock the Astros out of the playoffs again. He drove in all five runs in Friday's Game 3, then had a pair of hits in Saturday's 7-5 victory and finished the series with a .471 average and seven RBI.
"Two weeks ago I was like, it's not going to happen," he said. "My season might be over. I thought Bobby Cox might take me out of the lineup for awhile."
Jordan's bat was badly needed because Chipper Jones (.231), Ryan Klesko (.333) and Andruw Jones (.222) combined for four RBI against the Astros, production that forced Eddie Perez and Gerald Williams to pick up the slack. The pair drove in six runs, surprising production from the No. 1 and No. 7 hitters, but not as eye-catching as Bret Boone's numbers.
Boone finished with a series-high nine hits and a .474 average, though he drove in just one run.
"You can look around this clubhouse and everybody did something to contribute," Jordan said. ...
Jordan, who hasn't had much success against Astros closer Billy Wagner, was delighted not to see him in the game in the 12th inning Friday. With Wagner unavailable because of a sore elbow, Jay Powell was asked to keep the game tied and he failed, Jordan's double driving in a pair of runs in the 5-3 victory.
Wagner's availability was the central question Saturday morning and Astros manager Larry Dierker indicated he planned to manage as if his closer was sidelined.
"My suspicion is that he won't be able to pitch, but my suspicion is also that if we get a lead and it gets late in the game, it's going to be if he wants to pitch," he said. "If he does and it feels good, I would use him. I mean this is a day of no tomorrow. I'm not going to risk his elbow and our future on this one game, but if he warms up and says it's all right ... I have to trust his judgment. The doctors don't think there's anything in there that needs surgery or that it's career-threatening or anything like that. We basically have to go on how he feels."
Wagner didn't pitch Saturday and worked in just one of the four games, pitching a scoreless inning in Game 1. ...
Smoltz got the win Saturday and his bat received an assist. His leadoff double in the third led to the Braves' second run, he singled in the fifth and put down a sacrifice bunt in the five-run sixth.
"One of our critical mistakes was underestimating him as a hitter," Dierker said. "I don't know if Shane (Reynolds) underestimated him or whether he made mistakes. Everybody knows he's a good hitter and his hits made things very difficult.
"I mean, if you get the pitcher out, it's a little easier to turn around the top of the order. If you don't you're asking for trouble."