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Andruw continues to impress07/16/2003 1:27 AM ET
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Andruw Jones might have been denied his opportunity to claim MVP honors in Tuesday's All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field. But by the time this memorable event was complete, the Braves had shown the world why many consider them to have the game's most potent lineup.
Throughout this season, the Braves offense has been credited as the reason the club has compiled the Majors' best record. Their early-season success earned them the right to have five offensive players elected to play for a National League team that allowed the American League to rally for a 7-6 win in the latest edition of the Midsummer Classic.
"It's not over until the ninth inning," Jones said. "When you play in an All-Star Game, you can't make mistakes. When you make mistakes, guys are going to hit the ball. They were just the better team tonight."
Jones, who went 2-for-2 with a homer, double and three RBIs, appeared to be in line to claim MVP honors before the Rangers' Hank Blalock hit a two-out, two-run homer off Dodgers closer Eric Gagne to give the AL a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"He represented us well," Gary Sheffield said of Jones, whose seventh-inning homer was his first in three career All-Star Game appearances.
"It was fun out there," Jones said. "It's always a great thing to hit a homer in an All-Star Game. Not too many guys have the chance to do that."
Nor do too many guys ever have the opportunity to share an All-Star Game with six other teammates like Jones did Sunday night. Joining him were Sheffield, Javy Lopez, Rafael Furcal, Russ Ortiz, John Smoltz and Marcus Giles, who didn't play because of lingering effects from a concussion.
Sheffield, Furcal and Jones all scored in a five-run fifth inning that gave the NL a 5-1 lead that seemed safe. The last time a team had overcome a four-run deficit was 1955, when the NL erased a 5-0 sixth-inning deficit to claim a 6-5, 12-inning win at Milwaukee County Stadium.
Furcal's two-out single in the fifth enabled him to record a hit in his first-ever All-Star Game at-bat and put him in position to score on Jones' two-run double that ended the scoring flurry.
"It was good to get a hit in my first at-bat," said Furcal, who almost tied the game with two outs in the ninth with a towering shot that took the White Sox's Magglio Ordonez against the wall in right field.
After the game, Jones walked up to Furcal and jokingly said something to him in Spanish. When asked what he said, Furcal responded, "He said he just wanted one more chance to swing the bat."
Jones, who has won five consecutive Gold Gloves, is now beginning to be considered one of the game's most feared hitters. He is on pace to hit at least 34 homers for the fourth consecutive season and drive in over 100 runs for the third time in the past four seasons.
An MVP award would have simply added to the impressive resume this 26-year-old center fielder has compiled since making his Major League debut at the age of 19 in August 1996 and then two months later becoming the only NL player to ever homer in his first two career World Series at-bats.
"To be 26 and have already done what he has done is amazing," Sheffield said. "He has a lot more baseball left in him. There's no telling what he's going to do when he gets to be 29 or 30."
That remains to be seen. But for now, it seems highly likely that there will be many more All-Star Games in which Jones will be given the opportunity to win the MVP Award that was taken away with one swing of the bat.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.