Can Chipper hit .400? Cubs not sure
Braves slugger will not be in the lineup for series opener
LOS ANGELES -- Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly won't have to deal with Chipper Jones on Tuesday. The red-hot Atlanta Braves hitter, who is batting .420, is sidelined with a right quadriceps injury.
"That's a bummer," Lilly said Sunday. "As a pitcher, it's a good challenge to face the hottest hitter in baseball. I like Chipper, and I hope he gets healthy soon."
Batting .400 for a full season is something the Cubs players can't even imagine doing.
"Four hundred? I don't see anybody hitting .400," Alfonso Soriano said. "I don't see myself batting .400 for 2 1/2 months. Four hundred is very tough.
"You can hit .400 in one month, but batting .400 [for the season], you have to be consistent every day and get two hits," Soriano said. "Sometimes there's a tough pitcher on the mound and there's nothing you can do. He's doing it -- I don't know how, but he's doing it."
No batter has finished a season at .400 since Ted Williams did so in 1941.
"The way he's going right now, I think he's got a chance," Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson said of Jones. "We're only one-third of the way through the season, and I'm sure he knows that, too. He's going to ride this thing out as long as it takes. I'd like to see him to do it. It'd be fun to watch somebody hit .400 again."
Could Johnson, who has a career average of .281, ever dream of that?
"Dream? Yeah, exactly," Johnson said.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella doesn't think Jones will finish at .400.
"No, you can't go 2-for-5 all year," Piniella said. "If you go 1-for-3, you're doing really well."
Lilly should be relieved Jones won't be in the lineup. He's batting .444 against left-handers. The Cubs pitcher will be rooting for Jones -- after they're done facing him.
"If he was the next guy to hit .400, I'd be really happy for him," Lilly said. "He's a class act."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.