Jones not sure he can play Thursday
ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones aggravated an injury to his right hand in Game 1 of the NL division series and doesn't know if he can play Thursday.
Jones, the Braves third baseman and cleanup hitter, said his hand began swelling during the game, making it difficult for him to get his bat around against Houston's Roger Clemens in the Astros' 9-3 win Wednesday.
Jones, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, said he was not sure he would start in Game 2.
"I want to be out there, but if I'm doing more harm than good, I don't want to be out there," Jones said.
Jones was struck on the hand by a pitch in the next-to-last game of the regular season. On Monday, it was too sore to take any swings during batting practice.
By Wednesday, Jones was ready to play the opener against the Astros, but he aggravated the injury while diving for a ground ball hit by Morgan Ensberg in the fifth inning.
So when it came to choosing between Jose and Benige Molina to be his catcher in Game 2 of the division Series against the Red Sox, it was a no-brainer: Jose got the nod.
"Bartolo really doesn't have a preference. It's just a comfort level that's extraordinary, with what Jose has done with Bartolo," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Those guys have done very well down the stretch in a lot of key games and we are going to stay with it."
The younger Molina has been catching Colon through most of the second half of the season and has been credited with helping turn the right-hander's season around. Colon is 12-4 since July 3, and Jose Molina has started in 10 of those wins.
Colon finished 18-12 with a 5.01 ERA in 34 starts, after going 5-8 with a 6.57 ERA in his first 17 outings. Scioscia had Bengie Molina behind the plate for two of Colon's starts in September because he wanted his bat in the lineup as much as possible in the postseason -- and wanted Colon to get reaccustomed to him. But those plans changed when the Angels lost Game 1.
"Bartolo's been night and day from his first 15 starts, when he was having trouble with his mechanics, to where he is now," Scioscia said. "If you look at him statistically, over his last 20 or so starts, I think he ranks right up there with anybody in baseball."
As he tried to walk into the interview room after Wednesday's game, Houston's Roger Clemens was stopped by a Turner Field security guard, who asked the 300-game winner for his ID.
"Open the door," Clemens demanded.
Reporters standing nearby told the security guard Clemens was a pitcher.
Clemens, trailed by his family, was not amused by the incident.
"You need to get some people here who know what they're doing," he said.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire loves to see New York's Ruben Sierra coming to bat at Yankee Stadium -- even though he's a dangerous hitter.
"I like his song when he comes to the plate; I want to tell you that, too," Gardenhire said. "We were trying to figure out who sings that: 'I like the way she moves ...' We were trying to figure that out, I'm telling my bench coach, 'Will you please shut up, I'm trying to concentrate here.' That's a true story. Really tense out there."
Celebrating his 39th birthday, Sierra was the designated hitter for the second consecutive game Wednesday night, leaving Kenny Lofton on the bench again -- even with right-hander Brad Radke pitching for Minnesota.
"It's just a call," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "I can't say anything negative about Kenny because he's not playing. I think Ruben is having some good at-bats now, he's a switch-hitter, and I just feel comfortable playing him."
Lofton had a .346 on-base percentage and scored 51 runs this season. He complained earlier in the year about his limited playing time.
"I talked to Kenny about this today, because he was, I think, a little surprised that he wasn't playing," Torre said. "I just told him, 'Hopefully, it's going to be a long postseason and just be ready to play.' But it's just a decision on how I feel, as opposed to what you didn't do."
Jose Lima, who'll start Game 3 of the Dodgers' first-round series against the Cardinals, said there's no easy way to pitch to St. Louis' powerful lineup.
"Don't try to trick them, don't try to be foolish, just go up there and try to challenge them," Lima said. "You cannot go out there and try to work the count on those guys because that's what they want, they look for one pitch to hurt you."
Lima said there are no weak spots throughout that lineup, even .247-hitting catcher Mike Matheny.
Lima relishes the opportunity to face St. Louis after fighting his way back to the major leagues last season. He had to prove himself with the independent Newark Bears before getting signed by the Royals, and then going 13-5 for the Dodgers after coming to camp as a non-roster invitee.
"You see the smile on my face every day?" Lima said. "Come on. Being on the playoff roster and pitching on Saturday? Come on. This is unbelievable. This is probably the most enjoyable year of my career."
Just another start
Houston's Roy Oswalt will be making his first postseason start Thursday against the Braves. He believes it will feel like just another outing.
Oswalt said he's been following Roger Clemens' advice to treat all starts down the stretch like he already was pitching in the playoffs. The Astros had to win 36 of their last 46 games to capture the wild card.
"For the last month, we've been approaching every game as a postseason game just because they were depending on us to put up innings for the team, as far as going deep into games," Oswalt said. "We've been trying to do it every game. It's no different from the regular season. We had to get here first."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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