Standing on third base, right arm raised, hand in a fist was the perfect pose for future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones to strike as the Atlanta Braves clinched a berth in the MLB play-offs on Tuesday.
Jones, who will go down as one of the game's great third basemen and switch-hitters, led the way for the Braves with a double in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins to set the table for Freddie Freeman's walk-off home run in a 4-3 victory.
Jones has been leading the way for the Braves all season, even at age 40, on surgically repaired knees, and heading into retirement.
"It just doesn't make sense sometimes," Jones said. "But I feel like as long as I've got an at-bat in the ninth, we've got a chance."
The Braves honoured Jones in a pre-game ceremony last night at Turner Field. He will finish No 3 on the career home run list for switch-hitters, No 2 for runs batted in from both sides of the plate and the most RBIs of anyone who predominantly played third base. But for the Braves, his value is not measured simply in statistics, especially not during this farewell season.
Jones's value to the team showed in his first game of the season, when he returned from arthroscopic knee surgery. He singled in his first at-bat in Houston and hit a home run in his second to lift the Braves out of a four-game losing streak to start the season.
He homered on his 40th birthday in April in Los Angeles at the Dodgers to show the Braves they could contend on the road against a play-off calibre team.
And those were just a tune-up for the show he put on against the Philadelphia Phillies. Jones hit a two-run walk-off home run May 2 in the 13th inning, lifting the Braves to a wild 15-13 finish and ending an eight-game losing streak.
It changed the complexion of their season series with the defending five-time division champions, and the Braves went on to finish 12-6 against them.
Jones walked the Phillies off with another home run earlier this month to rejuvenate the Braves after they had lost 10 of 14 games. It set the tone.
After the Braves blew an eight-and-a-half-game lead in the wild-card race last year, they are headed for, at the least, a one-game play-off in the new wild-card format. Jones is not the power hitter he once was. He does not have the quickness at third base he once did. But he still does mystical things.
"I know he's real because I've touched him," the Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But some of the stuff he's done is incredible."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE