Braves win again, remain big part of batting race

ATLANTA (AP) -- While the Atlanta Braves have just about run out of time in NL East, Chipper Jones and Edgar Renteria still could win a title -- a batting title.

Renteria had three hits, including a homer, and Jones had two hits Wednesday night in a 5-1 win over the Florida Marlins.

Jones (.339) and Renteria (.338) are competing with Colorado's Matt Holliday, who began the night at .338. Naturally, Braves manager Bobby Cox is pulling for his guys.

"I hope they finish one-two, in any order," he said.

Jones hit .324 last year and has topped .300 eight times, including his career-best .330 average in 2001. Renteria is having his best season since hitting .330 for St. Louis in 2003.

"We haven't talked about it one time," Jones said of the batting race. "We're just going out there and competing and taking each situation as it comes. He knows every time he goes out there he's got a job to do. And because he's in a batting race, he doesn't let that affect what his job is. And I'm the same way."

The last Atlanta player to win the batting title was current batting coach Terry Pendleton with a .319 average in his 1991 MVP season.

"I think anybody would cherish a batting title," Jones said. "That puts you in elite company. Neither one of us by any means thinks that we're Tony Gwynn. But this opportunity doesn't come around that often."

The Braves (79-73) have won four straight to match the win total from last year's 79-83 team. Atlanta still trails the New York Mets by 5 1/2 games in the NL East with 10 to play and began the day 5 1/2 back in the NL wild-card standings.

Mark Teixeira hit a two-run homer in the first inning as the Braves completed a three-game sweep of the last-place Marlins. Andruw Jones added a solo shot, his 26th, in the ninth.

Chuck James (11-10) avoided his trend of fading after four innings. Of his 72 earned runs allowed this season, 32 (44 percent) have come in the fifth and sixth innings.

James remained strong on a cool night. He completed seven innings for only the fourth time this season, striking out six and walking only one batter.

"I've kind of gone through ups and downs this season as far as mechanics," James said. "I think I thought about stuff too much instead of just going out there and pitching."

Peter Moylan pitched a perfect eighth for Atlanta. Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth, giving up Dan Uggla's 30th home run with one out.

"It feels good to put it behind me," said Uggla, who hit 27 homers as a rookie last year.

Cody Ross broke his bat while lofting a third-inning single to left field for the Marlins' only hit off James until Miguel Cabrera hit a single to left with one out in the seventh.

"He got ahead with fastballs. He threw some good changeups. He kept us off-balance. He shut us down," Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said of James.

With one out in the first, Renteria lined a homer to center off Daniel Barone (1-3). Chipper Jones followed with a walk, and Teixeira hit a two-run homer to right for a 3-0 lead.

"They're good hitters; they took advantage," Barone said. "I got a couple of pitches up, and they were able to capitalize on it."

The Braves knocked out Barone with three straight singles in the fifth.

Game notes
RHP Jeff Bennett, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Richmond on Wednesday, will made his 2007 debut for Atlanta when he starts against Milwaukee on Thursday. ... The Braves completed their fourth series sweep of the season, while the Marlins were swept for the ninth time.