HOUSTON (AP) Chipper Jones was worried his timing would be off after missing time with a knee injury.
The Atlanta Braves’ star third baseman quickly realized there was no need for concern.
Jones came off the disabled list and began his final season in the majors with a single and a two-run homer to help the Braves get their first win of the season, 6-4 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
“I think today he won our game singlehandedly, really,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The nearly 40-year-old Jones didn’t look a bit rusty in his return after missing Atlanta’s first four games following surgery on March 26 to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. The switch-hitter, who plans to retire at the end of this season, singled in his first at-bat and hit a left-handed homer – the 455th of his career – in the third inning to put the Braves up 3-1.
Jones brushed off the notion that he was the boost that finally got the Braves in the win column.
“I’m not going to say I was the spark,” he said. “Obviously, the two-run homer was a big lift, but I’d much rather be a calming influence, have them look down there, see me and know that I’m going to put up some good at-bats and hopefully make the play when it’s hit to me. And if they feed off that, great.”
The Braves had talked about sending Jones on a rehabilitation assignment in the minors before his return, but he opted to come straight back to the big league team.
“I’m glad that we didn’t make him go on that rehab assignment,” Gonzalez said with a laugh.
Houston manager Brad Mills talked about how having Jones back changed the Braves.
“He had a big night, but even if he doesn’t have that big night, it just spreads out that lineup a little bit and definitely gives them a little more weaponry,” Mills said.
Rookie Tyler Pastornicky added a solo shot for the Braves, sending his first major-league homer into the Crawford Boxes in left field to push Atlanta’s lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning.
Jordan Schafer singled in the seventh before scoring after consecutive one-out singles that chased Kris Medlen. Chris Johnson‘s two-out single scored J.D. Martinez and got Houston within 5-4 with runners at first and second.