Braves win as early cushion holds up

Early cushion holds

PHOENIX -- This wasn't the lineup the Braves possessed when Chipper Jones was previously present. But it was one that at least provided indication that the future could be bright even without Mark Teixeira.

Nobody is expecting Casey Kotchman to match Teixeira's offensive production. Nor has Martin Prado been given enough opportunity to accurately gauge his potential as a Major Leaguer.

But with three-hit performances, the two infielders helped Jones celebrate his successful return from the disabled list with an 11-6 win over the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night.

"It makes a big difference having a superstar like Chipper in your lineup," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It can make all of the difference in the world."

While claiming a second straight victory in this four-game series against the National League West leaders, the Braves used a 14-hit attack that included at least one hit from each of their starting position players, except for Jeff Francoeur.

With two hits, including a ninth-inning, two-run homer off Brandon Lyon, Jones didn't show any indication that he'd developed any rust while being sidelined since July 23 with a strained left hamstring. But he indicated it took him a couple of at-bats to get comfortable.

"I felt awkward the first couple of at-bats," said Jones, who grounded into a double play to end the first inning. "But it came back quick."

Jones improved his Major League-best batting average to .371, and more importantly, he didn't show any signs of physical limitations while beating out a third-inning infield single, or while racing from first base to score on Brian McCann's fifth-inning double.

"I didn't feel anything for the first time in a couple of months with my legs," said Jones, whose leg problems had limited him to one homer in his previous 16 games. "I don't know if I'll be able to put deodorant on in the morning. I'm already pretty sore just because I haven't played in a while. But we should be alright."

McCann's double sparked a four-run fifth inning that was capped with an RBI double from Prado, whose three-hit performance was a career best. The 24-year-old infielder also contributed a two-run, second-inning double and a third-inning leadoff triple against Doug Davis, who allowed seven earned runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings.

"He's some kind of hitter," Cox said of Prado. "He really is. He's hit .300 everywhere he's ever been."

As the Braves look toward next year, Prado is giving them reason to evaluate whether Kelly Johnson is the answer at second base. Prado has produced multi-hit games in each of the three starts he's made this month.

Despite the fact that he leads all National League left-handed hitters with a .350 batting average against left-handed pitchers, Johnson has been sitting in favor of the right-handed Prado when the opposing starting pitcher is left-handed.

"[Prado's] a good player," said Jones, who has always been one of Prado's biggest supporters. "He knows what his strengths and weaknesses are. His strengths are that he can hit the ball in the gaps and put up good at-bats."

Kotchman's three hits, which included a two-run, fifth-inning single, gave him his first multi-hit performance since being acquired from the Angels in exchange for Teixeira on July 29. In his 10 games with the Braves, the 25-year-old first baseman has batted .216 and tallied two extra-base hits.

"Kotch broke out good," said Cox, who thought his new first baseman was starting to take better swings this week in San Francisco. "It's good to see him get it going, because we know that he can hit."

All of this offensive production directly benefited the often run-starved Jorge Campillo, who allowed five earned runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. He has won four straight decisions and has been victorious in seven of his 16 starts this season. That total is more impressive given the Braves have scored three runs or fewer in seven of those outings.

"My teammates helped me out a lot tonight," Campillo said. "I just made a couple of mistakes in the sixth and seventh innings."

Stephen Drew drilled Campillo's third pitch of the game over the right-center-field wall for a leadoff homer. But over the next four innings, the Diamondbacks scored just one more run. That came when Alex Romero tripled with one out in the fifth and scored on a sacrifice fly.

Campillo, who had gone 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA in his previous five starts, minimized the damage to two runs after the Diamondbacks began the bottom of the sixth with three straight singles. In the seventh, he retired the first batter, then allowed a Romero double and Chris Snyder RBI single before exiting.

Romero accounted for three of the hits surrendered by Campillo. Will Ohman and Julian Tavarez combined to prevent any further seventh-inning damage with consecutive strikeouts of Drew and Conor Jackson.

"I thought [Campillo] pitched good," Cox said. "I know he gave up five runs. They only squared up five balls all night and that was good enough for me."

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