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Braves' Jones shows form beyond his years


ATLANTA -- Rookies are supposed to feel pressure. Rookies are supposed to act erratically in tough situations. Rookies are supposed to act like rookies, but that is something that Chipper Jones almost never does.

The 23-year-old Braves third baseman has looked like a veteran throughout the postseason. He hit two home runs in the first game of the divisional series, including a two-out, game-winner in the ninth inning. He batted .389 against the Colorado Rockies and did not break stride in the National League Championship Series.

Cincinnati Reds star Reggie Sanders can tell you about the flip side of the postseason experience, but Jones says he hasn't experienced one unpleasant playoff moment.

"Not one second of the postseason hasn't been fun," Jones said. "It has been a great experience for me, something I've wanted for a long time. I'm glad that I got to do it early in my career. I know a lot of players play a whole career and don't get in a postseason, so I'm happy to get that out of the way early in my career."

It is not the first time he has been to the playoffs, but it is the first time he has been on the field. He was on the Braves' reserve list after a short stay in the majors in 1993.

"I experienced it as a reserve, so nothing really surprises me," he said. "The only thing might be how relaxed I've been. I thought the jitters would take over."

Jones fell one short of a Braves rookie record with 86 RBIs in a season that was 18 games shorter than usual. He led major-league rookies in RBIs, runs (87), games (140), games started (135), plate appearances (600) and at-bats (524).

Bruised Justice

The Braves got a scare during pre-game workouts when outfielder David Justice crumpled to the ground at third base after being hit on the knee by a batting practice shot off the bat of catcher Javy Lopez. Justice stayed down a long time, but limped off the field under his own power.

It has been a tough-luck season for Justice, who was in and out of the lineup all year with recurrent shoulder problems. He was scratched last night, but will have nearly a week to bounce back for the World Series.

Long wait

The Braves will have to wait out the longest gap between postseason games since the Loma Prieta earthquake interrupted the 1989 World Series, but Bobby Cox wasn't complaining.

"We'll take it," he said. "We didn't want to play even one more game against that club."

Cox said the Braves will take today off and then begin daily workouts tomorrow. They might even bring in minor-league players to play intrasquad games to stay sharp during the six-day layoff.

Tough season

Reds manager Davey Johnson sounded before the game like a guy who already knew the outcome of the series -- not surprising considering that no club has recovered from a 3-0 deficit in any baseball postseason series.

"This has been a trying year for me," Johnson said. "It has probably taken as much out of me as any season I've managed, but there also have been a lot of great moments, too.

Ratings up

Overnight ratings for Game 3 of both championship series were up 10 percent from the comparable games two years ago. NBC's regionalized coverage of Atlanta's victory over Cincinnati got a 13.0 overnight rating and a 23 share.

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