PHILADELPHIA - It's taken him nearly six weeks to feel comfortable again at the plate, but Atlanta left fielder Chipper Jones says he's back.
"(Friday night) was the first time I put a whole game together, four at-bats where I felt great and got some good results," said Jones, who was 2-for-3 with two runs in Friday's 4-1 win over Philadelphia. "I feel I'm there. Now the trick is to ride that feeling for the next two months."
There have been few slumps in Jones' seven-year career that can match the 14-for-68 (.206) slide that dropped his average from .335 on June 12 to .303 on July 12. But after taking hundreds of swings in the batting cage over the past three weeks, he thinks he's smoothed out his mechanics and regained his confidence.
Jones has five hits in his last 11 at-bats, including a single in Saturday afternoon's 4-3 win. He's knocked in four runs during that four-game stretch, leaving him 42 RBI shy of a seventh straight 100-RBI season with 64 games remaining.
"I can do it," he said confidently.
While Jones feels he's got his swing back, he can't explain his home run drought. He has just 10 long balls this season, one more than he hit in July last year, and he's headed for his worst total since hitting 21 home runs in 1997. After hitting three home runs in each of the first three months, he has just one this month.
"I'm as surprised as anybody," Jones said. "I can't believe I have 10 home runs at this stage in July. I never would have guessed it in a million years. But I can't go out and try to hit home runs, that's when you get messed up. I've just got to let them come.
"I've always been a streaky home run hitter. When the moons lineup, that's when I go on one of my streaks. I haven't had the moons line up five or six days in a row where I hit five home runs. Hopefully, I have a few of those streaks coming, but I'll trade it off if it will come in October."
SAVING GRACE: By converting his 22nd consecutive save opportunity Saturday, John Smoltz broke Mark Wohlers' 1995 club record. Smoltz, who needs four saves to break Wohlers' 1996 franchise record of 39, isn't looking too far down the road.
"There's a lot of baseball left and a lot of things can happen," he said. "I'd just as soon not get carried away with anything. I didn't start the year thinking about records, so why start now?"
The Atlanta Food Bank hopes Smoltz sets a major-league record for saves. After nine years of making a donation for every strikeout, Smoltz is donating $500 for every save, which has forced him to make a change in his slogan.
"We have to change it from 'Strike Out Hunger' to 'Close Out Hunger,"' he said. "It's a great opportunity to make people aware that we have a hunger problem."
DON'T WALK: Damian Moss walked just one in six innings Friday night, a vast improvement on his eight-walk outing against the Montreal Expos five days earlier. He credits the work he did on the side with pitching coach Leo Mazzone and the time he spends talking pitching with Tom Glavine with sharpening his command.
"When I try and overpower people, that's when I get the ball up in the zone," Moss said. "But I think (Friday), as far as consistency of my pitches, that was one of the better outings I had."
Moss threw 101 pitches, 58 strikes, a ratio he must improve if he's to work seven and eight innings consistently.
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