Jones backs strong outing from Marquis

ATLANTA (AP) -- Chipper Jones didn't mind the pain.

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color="#666666">Jones

The Atlanta slugger had three hits in his return to the lineup,

backing the strong pitching of Jason Marquis as the Braves beat the

Montreal Expos 5-2 on Thursday night.

Just two nights earlier, Jones couldn't even stand up. He

hobbled home on crutches after fouling a ball of his right calf,

leaving a nasty bruise that figured to keep him out of the lineup a

few days.

Instead, he made a surprise pinch-hitting appearance Wednesday,

then proclaimed himself ready to start again.

''I'm not trying to set an example,'' he said after singling

three times, the last hit driving in a run in the seventh. ''I just

hate sitting on the bench.''

The switch-hitting Jones said the injury actually aided his

swing from his left side by forcing him to shift most of his weight

to the back foot.

''You don't want to land too hard on that foot,'' said Jones,

who batted with a protective shield covered the injured calf. ''It

can help you stay back on the ball. I saw the ball well and had

some good swings.''

Marquis (4-3) gave up only four hits and a run in seven innings,

winning for the third time in four starts since coming off the

disabled list. He gave up 12 runs in his first two starts, then was

shelved for nearly a month with tendinitis in his right shoulder.

Since returning from the DL, Marquis has given up one earned run

or less in three of his starts, lowering his overall ERA to 4.40.

He also scored the Braves' first run after beating out an infield

single.

''When you're 100 percent, you're always a little better than

when you're not,'' he said. ''I needed to take some time off to let

the arm heal and get it back where I wanted it to be.''

Marquis was coming off a 6-4 loss to Cincinnati, which roughed

him up for eight hits and five runs in 5 1-3 innings.

''I felt like I was aiming the ball instead of being loose and

letting my ability take over,'' he said. ''I knew tonight that I

just had to trust myself.''

Keith Lockhart, Julio Franco, Vinny Castilla and Darren Bragg

also had RBI for Atlanta, which expects to bolster its offense

Friday night with the return of Gary Sheffield. He missed his

seventh straight start with a sore hamstring but should play in the

opener of a three-game series at Cincinnati.

The Braves' 10th victory in 14 games pushed them a half-game

ahead of the idle New York Mets for the NL East lead.

''We're playing a lot more consistent,'' Jones said. ''We're

playing a lot better defense. We're not relying so much on the long

ball. It's fun.''

The Expos failed to build on a 4-3 victory the previous night,

when Jose Vidro came through with a two-out, three-run double in

the ninth against John Smoltz.

''Instead of taking a step forward, we went backward,'' manager

Frank Robinson said.

Carl Pavano (3-6) lost for the fourth time in his last five

decisions.

The Expos went ahead in the third. Fernando Tatis led off with a

single and Michael Barrett followed with a triple over the head of

Bragg, who made a twisting leap for the ball before crashing

headfirst into the right-field wall. He was not hurt, and the Expos

failed to get Barrett home from third.

The Braves tied it at 1 in the bottom half, with Marquis helping

himself offensively. He showed his athleticism by beating out a

slow roller, moved to third on Rafael Furcal's hit and scored on

Lockhart's grounder to shortstop.

Bragg drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the

fourth.

The Expos squandered a chance to tie it up in the sixth. Brad

Wilkerson led off with a double, then was thrown out by Javy Lopez

trying to steal third with Vladimir Guerrero at the plate.

Guerrero followed with a double off the left-field wall, causing

the embarrassed Wilkerson to cover his head with a towel in the

dugout. Marquis walked the next two hitters to load the bases, but

ended the inning by striking out Lee Stevens.

''We don't seem to take full advantage of our opportunities

offensively,'' Robinson said. ''The third and sixth innings were

perfect examples. That comes back to haunt you.''

Orlando Cabrera homered in the Montreal ninth off Darren

Holmes.

Game notes
Franco has three RBI in his last three games and managing

only one RBI in his first 37 games. ... Montreal OF Troy O'Leary

went hitless after managing at least two hits in each of his last

four starts. ... Marquis went 1-for-2, raising his average to .286

(4-of-14). ''Pitching comes first,'' he said. ''Hitting is always

secondary.''