Originally created 09/10/04

Chipper's out of groove again



ATLANTA - It's a vanishing act worthy of David Copperfield.

Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones' swing, which produced 11 home runs and 29 RBI in August, has disappeared. The pitches he sent into outfield gaps and over walls are now being fouled off or missed entirely. And, for the life of him, he can't explain why.

"I'm back to missing pitches again," said Jones, whose left wrist was taped Thursday after he injured it while sliding in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader. "I've gotten a lot of pitches to hit that I've fouled straight back. I feel like I'm on everything, but I'm not putting it in play for some reason. I don't understand why. You can't give major league pitchers that many opportunities to get you out. When they make mistakes, you've got to capitalize and for the last week I haven't done that. But there's nothing to indicate to me there's anything mechanically wrong."

Jones, who is batting .263 this month and has one home run and five RBI in 19 at-bats, entered Thursday night's game with a .254 average. His walk/strikeout ratio best reflects his season. For the first time since 1997, he will finish with more strikeouts than walks. With 80 strikeouts, he is three shy of last year's total, while he's drawn only 69 walks, 25 fewer than last season.

"If I played in 155 games this year I'd be over 100 strikeouts and that's never happened before," he said. "When I get pitches I should hit and I don't put them in play, that's the reason why I'm not hitting .300. If I don't execute, then a .250 average is the result. You can hit .250 for two months, but then you've got to hit .320 for three months to get to .300. I've hit .250 for five months."

Jones, who has hit .300 and knocked in 100 runs in each of the past six seasons, said he is frustrated by his struggles. His hot August got him back on pace for a ninth straight season of 100 RBI, but a poor September start might put that goal out of reach.

"I still walk up to the plate every time expecting to (hit) and that's half the battle," he said. "When you lose that outlook, that's when you're in trouble."

Jones was hoping that his sore wrist would allow him to swing normally Thursday. He suffered a similar injury against the Mets last year and missed several games.

"I don't know the technical name for it other than it hurts," he said.

Jones received two rounds of treatment from trainers during the second game Wednesday.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.