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Jones is showing 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 20-year 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 has not broken 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, an experience that may have contributed to a beyond-his-years performance in the divisional series and NLCS.

"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.

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.

Justice was scratched from the lineup and replaced by Mike Devereaux. It has been a tough-luck season for Justice, who was in and out of the lineup all year with recurrent shoulder problems.

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 ever had 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.

"When this season is over, and I hope that isn't soon, you'll find me at the end of some driving range, with a big bucket of balls hitting them pretty hard. I won't need to hit as many if we are the world champions."

What Reds were up against

The Reds had the weight of history pulling against them last night. In 17 of the previous 20 best-of-seven baseball postseason series in which a team has fallen behind 3-0, the series had ended in four games. The other three ended in five games.

Ratings up

Overnight ratings for the third game of the series were up 10 percent from the comparable game 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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