Hanson sets tone as Braves down D-backs

Hanson sets tone as Braves down D-backs

Hanson sets tone as Braves down D-backs
ATLANTA -- As Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson have set the tone with a couple strong starts, Chipper Jones has been reinvigorated by the rediscovery of his patented swing. This 10-game homestand has started exactly as well as the Braves could have envisioned.

Well minus the fact that superstition is going to cause Jones to repeat the dizzying dance he has performed in the dugout just before the Braves have taken the field to start the first two games of this homestand.

Jones kept his teammates loose with his new pregame ritual, and then delighted them with a two-run sixth-inning home run that backed Hanson's strong start and allowed the Braves to hold on to claim a 6-4 win over the D-backs on Wednesday night.

"This game is fun when you're playing well and you feel like you can go out there and do some damage," Jones said. "This is a big point in the season. I think for us, I need to be vocal, upbeat and producing ... all of those things. That's what I'm trying to do."

Jones' blast off of D-backs starter Trevor Cahill provided all of the production the Braves needed to survive the home runs Hanson and Jonny Venters surrendered in Arizona's four-run seventh inning.

As for keeping things upbeat for a team, the 40-year-old veteran has attempted to take care of this with this pregame dance that will continue to draw laughs as long as he performs it. This new ritual features him raising his legs as he turns in a circle multiple times while surrounded by a few teammates.

"When I got done, I had to sit down and catch my breath," Jones said.

But with wins during the first games of this 10-game homestand, this is not a ritual his teammates are going to allow him to abruptly end. Right?

"I started something I can't stop," Jones said.

The Braves would be pleased if Jones just continues doing what he has done the past couple days throughout the remainder of the season. His three-hit performance aided Tuesday's win, and Wednesday's homer over the center-field wall gave him even more reason to believe he has finally found the comfort zone he has been seeking since coming off of the disabled list on June 10.

"Chipper's on another level right now with how much energy he's had the last couple days," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. "It's fun to watch. He's been doing great, he's been centering balls up, he's been having great at bats. I think he's about to go off."

Jones' first home run since May 4 provided a fourth consecutive win for Hanson, who allowed three runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. The big right-hander was in total command before surrendering consecutive one-out singles just ahead of Ryan Roberts' three-run home run in the seventh inning.

Two batters later, the D-backs cut their deficit to two runs with Chris Young's pinch-hit home run off of Venters. But their attempt to do more damage against Eric O'Flaherty in the eighth was thwarted when Uggla and rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons turned a spectacular inning-ending double play.

Mired in a 7-for-52 slump that dates back to June 6, Uggla made his presence known when he ranged to his left and skidded across his left knee before abruptly popping up to make the accurate feed that Simmons turned into a picture-perfect double play.

"That shows you what kind of guy Dan Uggla is," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's been struggling offensively. But he doesn't let the bat affect him on the field. If we don't turn that, we might still be playing. Or we're behind the eight ball and we lose the game."

Craig Kimbrel notched three strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning to secure his 22nd save. As for the Braves offense, it did its part by tallying at least four runs in a seventh straight game. Three of those runs came courtesy of Cahill's fifth-inning struggles. He made an errant throw to second base on a sacrifice-bunt attempt, and walked Hanson after getting ahead of him with a 1-2 count.

Cahill's first mistake of the evening came when he surrendered a first-inning home run to Jason Heyward, who has hit half of his 12 home runs in his past 17 games. But the one that proved more devastating was the breaking ball that he allowed Jones to power over the center-field wall.

"I thought it was good pitch, and I saw him swinging and I was hoping he was going to be out in front and roll something over," Cahill said. "But he's a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter and he was able to keep the barrel through the zone, so it was just one of those things where you just have to tip your cap."

Still, while Jones delivered the big blow, Hanson set the tone for the evening in the same manner that Hudson had while limiting the D-backs to one run in eight innings during Tuesday's series opener. These were the results Gonzalez was seeking when he asked his starting pitchers to set a goal to work deep into games during each of the starts they make leading up to the All-Star break.

"It starts with the starting pitching," Jones said. "Tommy and Huddy did their jobs. Tommy made really just one bad pitch tonight. But he was rewarded with a win. Now we need to get some consistency out of the back three spots. If we do that, we're going to win some games."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.