PHOENIX -- It was an afternoon, Andruw Jones said, when the Braves could not rely solely on Kevin Millwood's right arm to send them home with a series win, the season's most compelling three games finally at hand.
But even Jones had to shake his head at the idea that he would carry the Braves to a 7-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark. He fell a double shy of hitting for the cycle, knocked in a run and scored three times Sunday afternoon as the Braves returned home with their magic number to clinch the NL East down to 11.
"It's a good thing for us we started to swing the bats the way we did the last two days," said Jones, who was 6 for 14 in the three games. "We've got a big series coming up against the Mets, and we know what we need to do the rest of the way."
The win gave the Braves, who rebounded from a 2-1 loss Friday night to take the final two games of the series, a three-game lead over the Mets, who arrive at Turner Field tonight for the start of a three-game series.
"We've been waiting for this series for a long time," said Millwood, who improved to 11-1 in 16 career starts in September. "We've been anxious to get back and play those guys. I'm sure they want to play us as much as we want to play them."
Paired against Curt Schilling, Millwood matched his power blasts, pitch for pitch. He fanned five and allowed just four hits in seven innings before Mike Remlinger and Terry Mulholland finished up with two shutout innings.
Leading 2-1 in the eighth, the Braves buried Arizona's bullpen with five hits, starting with Jones' triple against the center field wall. Seven hitters went to the plate before an out was recorded, and Wally Joyner, Javy Lopez, Reggie Sanders and Keith Lockhart came away with run-scoring hits to put the game away.
"We're throwing the ball good, we've got guys swinging the bats good, and we got two out of three here," manager Bobby Cox said. "We're picking it up a little bit."
The Braves, who gathered 16 hits, rang up six against Schilling (10-12) in three innings but scored only two runs. Joyner followed Jones' single and a walk to Chipper Jones with a run-scoring single in the first, then Brian Jordan rolled into a 4-6-3 double play.
In the third, Andruw Jones reached career highs in home runs (32) and RBI (91) with one swing. He launched a 3-and-1 delivery into the left-field seats, his first home run since Sept. 2, to make it 2-1. Chipper Jones followed with a single through the middle, but Joyner's smash to second was turned into another rally-killing double play.
"I thought about (the cycle), but when you think about it, you're not going to do it," Chipper Jones said. "It would have been nice to get the double, but the good thing is we won."
Greg Colbrunn tied the game 1-1 with his 14th home run in the second, lining a 2-and-2 pitch into the left-field grandstand. Millwood encountered another spot of trouble in the fourth when Chipper Jones booted Jay Bell's ground ball, Colbrunn singled and Steve Finley walked to fill the bases.
But Matt Williams rolled over the top of Millwood's first pitch and tapped into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.
"It adds a little comfort knowing the Mets had lost and knowing they're hoping we lose," said Millwood, who took his 10th win. "If (Schilling) goes out and throws a shutout against you, you're right where you were before the game started."
It was still 2-1 when Andruw Jones started the eighth by sending a pitch from reliever Byung-Hyun Kim above the 407-foot sign on the center-field wall for a triple. More carnage followed. Lopez's double scored two runs, Sanders and Lockhart followed with run-scoring base hits, and the Braves had their second five-run inning against the Diamondbacks in two days.
On deck, the Mets. Three games at Turner Field, then three next week at Shea Stadium.
"It's going to be a really good series when we face them at home," Andruw Jones said. "We've just got to keep playing the way we're playing."
Reach Bill Zack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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