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No day off? No problem for Chipper

Chipper rides out skid without day off

ATLANTA -- Under normal circumstances, Chipper Jones likely would have taken the opportunity to gain some needed rest Sunday. But with Nate McLouth and Yunel Escobar still absent from the lineup, the Braves' third baseman instead found himself once again attempting to end his troubling slump.

"I probably would have gotten a day off this weekend," Jones said. "But Nate pulled his hamstring and Escobar did something."

Without Escobar and McLouth, the Braves entered Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Red Sox without the two of their top offensive threats. As for their recent concerns about Jones, they were at least minimized before the first inning concluded.

Jones' first-inning solo homer off Brad Penny allowed him to release some of the frustration he'd compiled over the past two weeks. In his previous 17 games, Jones had hit .167 with just three extra-base hits (all doubles), a .282 on-base percentage and one RBI.

"It's not going good right now," Jones said before Sunday's game. "I've been pitched really well."

After Saturday's game, Jones reviewed video and couldn't find any mechanical flaws to explain his recent offensive woes.

"I'm not drifting, and I'm not dropping my hands," Jones said. "My swing is fine. I'm on balance and all of those things. It's just that the margin of error at 95 mph is pretty small."

While hitting a career-best .364 and winning a batting title last season, Jones was every bit as surprised as he was in 2007, when he had established a new career high with a .337 batting average.

With the Braves struggling to produce runs this year, there is reason to believe Jones has put more pressure on himself to provide his team some much-needed power. Entering Sunday, the Braves ranked 13th in the National League with 56 homers.

"I'm a .310 lifetime hitter, and last few years I have hit .340," Jones said. "The numbers have to average out some time."

Now that Jones has shown some signs of life, the Braves are hopeful that he'll be able to team with McLouth and Escobar to provide them adequate offense during this week's three-game series against the Phillies.

McLouth tweaked his left hamstring during Friday night's eighth inning, and he is hoping to return to the lineup for Tuesday's series opener. As for Escobar, Atlanta is still saying he's missed the past three games because of his strained right hip flexor.

While Escobar is likely still bothered by this hip ailment that has troubled him over the past month, there is strong suspicion that his absence is a punitive response to the unprofessional reaction he provided after being charged with an error during Thursday night's game against the Yankees.

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

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