ST. LOUIS -- He is baseball's answer to Tiger Woods, an unflappable 19-year-old who thinks nothing of being the youngest player ever to get into a National League Championship Series, a two-time minor-league player of the year who thinks that his rapid progression to the big leagues is nothing special.
Andruw Jones will start Game 3 for the Atlanta Braves here today, taking over for a slumping Ryan Klesko in left field against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Considering the move is because the Cardinals are starting left-hander Donovan Osborne, he will likely start tomorrow if left-hander Danny Jackson replaces scheduled starter Andy Benes, who injured his back while sliding into third base after tagging up on a fly ball in Game 1.
"I'm just treating it like it's another game," said Jones, the second player from Curacao to make it to the major leagues. "I'm going to go out and have some fun."
When Jones pinch ran for Mark Lemke in Game 1 -- and scored what proved to be the winning run in a 4-2 Atlanta victory -- he became the youngest player by two weeks ever to appear in a League Championship Series. Today he'll be the youngest ever to start.
The previous record holder in both categories was Bert Blyleven, who was 19 years, 5 months, 29 days when he pitched for the Minnesota Twins in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Orioles on Oct. 5, 1970.
Though Jones finished the season with only two hits in his last 25 at-bats and 10 in his last 66, Braves manager Bobby Cox looks at him as a more viable option against left-handers than Klesko, who hit .230 in 139 at-bats against lefties. Only three of Klesko's 34 home runs and 12 of his 93 RBIs came against lefties.
"I was having some problems with my swing and I put up bad numbers the last month and a half," Klesko said yesterday. "But if you look at it, I wasn't hitting right-handers any easier."
Jones was 11-for-29 with 10 extra-base hits against left-handers -- and played well against right-handers, too. A little more than a week after being called up Aug. 14, he became the youngest player in 35 years to hit two home runs in a game and the fourth-youngest all-time. Jones jumped from Single-A ball in Durham, N.C., to the majors in less than two months.
Not so Chipper
Atlanta's other Jones, Chipper, wasn't living up to his nickname as he hobbled around Busch Stadium for yesterday's workout. Chipper Jones was limping on a sore ankle suffered when he fouled a ball off his left foot in his final at-bat in Game 2.
Jones also had a sore neck from his diving attempt on a bunt by pinch hitter Mark Sweeney. Jones ended up missing the ball, then throwing it over Lemke's head at first in what turned out to be a five-run seventh inning for the Cardinals, who won, 8-3.
"It is feeling a lot better," Jones said about his ankle. "But I'm still dealing with the swelling. I think that coming out of the game and icing it right away was the key. It still hurts when I put a lot of weight on it."
No loss of confidence
Despite losing Game 2 in a series many expected them to sweep, the Braves seem a confident bunch. The defeat makes this a best-of-five series with the first three on the road. The confidence grows from the fact that the Braves swept the Cardinals here during the regular season.
"You'd rather be 6-0 than 0-6 in somebody else's back yard," said Cox. "It's past history now. Everything does start new, but it's good to know that we have a good record here. This ballpark matches up pretty good with Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium now. The dimensions are basically the same."
What should be markedly different is the atmosphere. A sellout of nearly 57,000 is expected and the atmosphere will be much like a college football game.
With most fans wearing red, it won't be much different than a Nebraska game. The crowd at Atlanta was much like Florida State -- for basketball. In other words, mostly indifferent.
"It's a great place [St. Louis] to play," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "The fans remind me of the fans in Boston, maybe a little more forgiving when you stumble."
La Russa is confident that the team that lost all its games here to the Braves and nine of 13 overall during the regular season won't be the same one that shows up today.
"I think that win gave us a lot of confidence," he said.
Atlanta vs. St. Louis
(Series tied, 1-1) (Best of seven; games on Ch. 45)
Game 1: Atlanta 4, St. Louis 2
Game 2: St. Louis 8, Atlanta 3
Today: Atl. at St. Louis, 4:15
Tomorrow: Atl. at St. Louis, 7:30
Monday: Atlanta at St. Louis, 7:09
Wednesday: St. Louis at Atl., 4:15*
Thursday: St. Louis at Atl., 8:11*
Note: all game times are p.m.
* -- if necessary
Pub Date: 10/12/96