PHOENIX - Hard to believe, but when Atlanta left fielder Chipper Jones was named National League Player of the Week, it marked just the second time in his eight-year career that he'd taken the honor.
One might think the previous occasion would have been during his MVP season in 1999, but no. He somehow managed to put up MVP numbers three years ago without being named Player of the Week.
"The only other time he's been honored was in April 1998. It was a great week," said Jones, who batted .526 with four home runs and 11 RBI. "I drew a lot of walks and saw the ball well. I didn't go fishing for a pitcher's pitch basically all week. Now let's do it two weeks in a row. I need to string a few weeks together and ride this wave of confidence for a while."
Jones, who headed into Tuesday night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks having reached base in 14 of his past 19 plate appearances, has drawn 22 walks in his last 16 games.
He also has five home runs in his last eight games after hitting just four in his previous 67 games. Jones says there are two factors contributing to his success. He started lifting weights again after games, so he doesn't feel as fatigued as he normally does at this stage of the season. And he simplified his approach at the plate.
"I'm not guessing what pitch is coming, I'm just looking for the ball and throwing my hands at it," he said. It's working."
INJURY REPORT: Center fielder Andruw Jones returned to the lineup Tuesday after being given Sunday off to rest his aching left shoulder. He decided against a cortisone shot ("I'm never going to get a shot") and admitted his shoulder remains sore.
"I'll be all right," he said. "I'll get some rest when we clinch. All I want to do its get it right for October."
Third baseman Vinny Castilla, who received a cortisone shot in his right hand Friday and missed the weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals, remained out of the lineup Tuesday.
He said his hand is improving and after taking batting practice he planned to be available to pinch hit. Castilla might return to the lineup tonight.
PLATOON PLAYERS: Here's a timeshare plan for you: Second baseman Mark DeRosa had 14 at-bats during the past homestand, and Keith Lockhart had 15.
"It's one of those things where me and Keith don't know who's going to be in there, and it keeps us on our toes," DeRosa said. "I've always prepared myself to play."
DeRosa, who missed two months after suffering torn tissue in his right ankle, gives manager Bobby Cox an offensive option.
He's hitting .310 and has knocked in 10 runs in 35 games. Lockhart, who has just eight hits in his past 49 at-bats (.163), is the better defender.
He has played outstanding defense this year, which raises the question of whether Cox will continue the platoon in October. DeRosa isn't thinking that far ahead.
"We have an unbelievable team and I'm just enjoying being here," he said.
AROUND THE DIAMOND: The Braves entered the series against the Diamondbacks having won or tied their past 14 straight series on the road. The last time the team dropped a series on the road was April 15-17, when it lost two of three to the New York Mets. ... The Braves are 32-9 since June 19. ... Little wonder that Andruw Jones wanted to get back in the lineup Tuesday. He's a .372 career hitter with five home runs at Bank One Ballpark, his best average at any NL stadium. ... Wes Helms, who has nine hits in his past 21 at-bats (.429), started a fourth-straight game at third base.
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