DRILL Jones se­cures first bat­ting ti­tle, tops both leagues

The Covington News - - Sports -

HOUS­TON — Chip­per Jones walked in his only at-bat against Hous­ton on Sun­day and earned his first Na­tional League bat­ting ti­tle, edg­ing St. Louis' Al­bert Pu­jols.

Jones fin­ished with a ca­reer-high .364 av­er­age; Pu­jols went 1-for-2 on Sun­day to fin­ish at .357. Jones' av­er­age was the high­est for an NL bat­ting champ since Barry Bonds won with a .370 av­er­age in 2002.

"It's a tremendous feather in the cap, from an in­di­vid­ual stand­point," Jones said. " It's one of those things that brings in­stant cred­i­bil­ity. Hope­fully, I al­ready had it around the league. But once you have the la­bel of bat­ting cham­pion, you're re­spected and rec­og­nized by that."

Jones drew a pinch- hit walk against Jose Valverde in the ninth in­ning Sun­day and fell just shy of Mickey Man­tle's sea­son record for a switch hit­ter. Man­tle bat­ted .365 in 1957.

"When I was grow­ing up, there were two guys that I wanted to be men­tioned with, when I was done play­ing — Mickey Man­tle and Ed­die Mur­ray," Jones said. "I'm start­ing to reach that kind of com­pany now and I'm hon­ored and hum­bled to be there."

The 36- year- old Jones is the old­est switch- hit­ting bat­ting cham­pion in his­tory. Bill Mueller was 32 when he won the AL crown with Bos­ton in 2003. Mueller was also the last switch hit­ter to win a bat­ting ti­tle, though Jones is the first switch hit­ter to take the NL ti­tle since Terry Pendle­ton won in 1991 with At­lanta. Pendle­ton is now the Braves' hit­ting coach.

" Ob­vi­ously, I would trade a bat­ting ti­tle for be­ing in the play­offs," Jones said. "But be­ing in the bat­ting race the last cou­ple of years has given me a lot of mo­ti­va­tion to play the sea­son out."

The Braves also fin­ished last sea­son in Hous­ton and Jones went 0- for- 3 in the fi­nal game to lose the bat­ting ti­tle to Colorado's Matt Hol­l­i­day. Jones fin­ished with a ca­reer-best .337 av­er­age, but Hol­l­i­day hit .340.

Jones said he didn't think about the bat­ting ti­tle as much this sea­son and hit bet­ter as a re­sult.

" I think it takes go­ing through it," he said. " I put a lot of pres­sure on my­self last year, try­ing to scrape out a hit ev­ery sin­gle at- bat. This year, I was a lot more re­laxed. I re­ally didn't care about it, or I mean, I took that ap­proach and it seemed to work out."

Jones ranked 2007 as the best hit­ting sea­son of his ca­reer. He hit 29 home runs and 102 RBIs, even af­ter miss­ing 19 games with bruised hands and an­other three with a strained oblique mus­cle.

This sea­son, Jones hit 22 homers and drove in 75 runs af­ter miss­ing 14 games in July and Au­gust with a strained left ham­string. He's been out of the start­ing lineup since Sept. 21 with right shoul­der in­flam­ma­tion.

"This year was not as good, be­cause the run pro­duc­tion and the power num­bers aren't there," he said. "I missed quite a few games, but I hit in the mid­dle of the lineup. I'm ex­pected to pro­duce runs. The homer to­tal and the RBI to­tals are a lit­tle low."

Then again, he built such a big lead on Pu­jols that he was able to start sa­vor­ing the bat­ting ti­tle early.

" I knew for the last four or five days since I wasn't play­ing," he said. "I had a cou­ple of days to sit back and en­joy it. It's one of my crown­ing ac­com­plish­ments."

As­so­ci­ated Press

LO­CAL SPORTS

Free­lance sports writ­ers wanted

The Cov­ing­ton News is search­ing for free­lance writ­ers who are in­ter­ested in cov­er­ing high school game sto­ries.

Candidates should posess strong writ­ing skills and a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of news val­ues and sto­ry­lines.

Please sub­mit your in­for­ma­tion for con­sid­er­a­tion to sports ed­i­tor Josh Briggs at jbriggs@cov­news.com.

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