Originally created 09/12/05

Joneses dial long distance

WASHINGTON - The ride from D.C. to Philadelphia, according to Amtrak, takes 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Without a dramatic rally in the final inning Sunday, that two-state jaunt would have felt like a year and 35 days for the Atlanta Braves.

"Whew," manager Bobby Cox said, "that would have been a long train ride."

Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones made sure the Atlanta's playoff-bound locomotive stayed on the tracks.

Their back-to-back, two-out home runs in the ninth off Nationals closer Chad Cordero staved off a second psychologically impaling loss this weekend to Washington.

Instead, it was a relief-inspiring 9-7 victory at RFK Stadium on an afternoon that, after Florida's loss, boosted Atlanta's NL East lead to seven games.

The Braves couldn't escape Friday after the bullpen's four-run eighth cashed in a 6-3 lead. A five-run eighth Sunday squandered John Smoltz's seven innings of three-hit baseball and nearly made a footnote of Andruw Jones' franchise record-setting 48th home run.

The slugging center fielder's 49th home run in the ninth, which put him two in front of Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews' mark, was preceded by one of more immediate importance.

Julio Franco led off the inning with a single, but two fly-ball outs left Chipper as the Braves' final out against Cordero, who leads the majors in saves.

"Once Julio led off with a base hit," Jones said, "there's always hope."

Cordero went 2-0 to Jones and, with Andruw on deck, felt forced to give Chipper a pitch to hit.

"That's where Andruw having a monster year gets me a pitch," Chipper Jones said. "That gets me a fastball. And I like fastballs."

He smacked Cordero's heater into the mezzanine level in right center field to put Atlanta up 8-7. Andruw then capped the comeback - it was the third time this year he and Chipper have homered back-to-back.

"To have (the comeback) happen after a colossal breakdown in our bullpen again, that's big," Chipper said. "You've got to pick each other up. And we did today."

As for Andruw, he's continuing to surge at just the right time to impress postseason award voters.

"He's completely locked in," Cox said. "He's truly a star right now."

Reach Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.


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