PHOENIX - Two weeks ago, Chipper Jones couldn't hit water from a rowboat.
Now look at him. He headed into Saturday night's encounter against Randy Johnson hitting .531 (17 for 32) in the eight games of the trip, with four homers and eight RBI in his last four games.
"It's Jekyll and Hyde," he said. "That's why perseverance is one of the key words in my vocabulary."
Jones had a career high five hits in Friday night's 9-0 win over the Diamondbacks, falling a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. If he'd had runners on base, he would have knocked in three or four runs. But the only RBI he came away with was his seventh home run in the ninth.
Still, he has 12 RBI during the trip and he's boosted his average from .211 on April 14 to .345.
"Confidence and luck," Jones said, explaining his hot streak. "Some balls have fallen in for me and some have found holes. I feel pretty confident when I go up to the plate that I'm going to put a good swing on the ball and hit it hard somewhere."
Jones, who had had four hits in a game 14 times in his career heading into this season, says it takes some luck to get five in a game. Though he hit the ball hard all five times Friday, two of his hits found holes, and one could have been gloved by shortstop Matt Williams.
"Everybody wants five hits and everybody wants three homers," Jones said. "When you think of five hits at the beginning of a game, it's kind of unrealistic to hope for because you've got to figure at least once you're going to get yourself out and the pitcher is going to make some great pitches on you. It takes (luck) to get four or five hits in a game."
The adjustment Jones made at the plate at the start of the trip has paid huge dividends. He stopped wrapping the bat around his head as he prepared to swing, which has eliminated some unnecessary movement and allowed him to see breaking pitches better. That has led to increased confidence, which has led to his current streak.
"(Confidence) is big for everybody, not just me," he said. "There are times when you walk up to the plate and there's a certain pitcher out there and you say, I have no chance to get a hit here. Other times you go up and say, there's no way this guy is getting me out in this situation."
Odalis Perez considers tonight's start against the Diamondbacks to be one of the most important of his brief career. He feels if he does poorly he could be replaced in the rotation by Damian Moss or demoted to Class AAA Richmond.
"It's very important," he said. "I need to have a good outing. I know somebody is getting ready to pitch, I don't know if I'm going down or going to the bullpen, so I need a good one to stay here."
Perez has struggled in the rotation, compiling a 6.43 ERA as a starter and an 8.22 ERA overall. He was horrible in his last outing against the Astros, lasting just three innings and allowing six hits, five walks and seven runs. It's that performance that sticks in manager Bobby Cox's mind because Perez started the game with two strikeouts, then fell apart.
"I don't really know what's wrong," he said. "I know all my pitches are there, but I'm not throwing strikes. I hope to go out there and not give up all the walks I've been giving up."
Marcus Giles was called up from Class AAA Richmond April 15, but has started just one game and appeared in another as a pinch runner.
It's a bit surprising Cox hasn't used him more and given second baseman Quilvio Veras some time off to rest a sore knee, but Giles says he's content to wait his turn.
"I knew the only way I'd play is if (Veras) is hurt," said Giles, who is a career .319 hitter in the minors. "If he's hitting, he's going to be playing. There's not much I can do about it except try to be ready in case they need me."
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