From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- Chipper Jones received a few modest gifts from teammates before taking the field on his 40th birthday and celebrated it the best way possible -- with a home run. Martin Prado wouldn't let it be wasted.Prado had two RBIs including a run-scoring triple in the ninth inning, and the Atlanta Braves beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 on Tuesday night."Martin Prado gave me my birthday present. That was the best one of the day," Jones said. "It's been a fun ride, and it's great to have my last birthday in the big leagues turn out the right way. I consider myself pretty lucky to be 40 years old and still playing -- in a lot more limited role, but playing nonetheless. I doubt if anybody really expects to be playing on their 40th birthday. I mean, as a kid, you'd like to think you're going to play forever."Unfortunately, as many miles and as many innings and as many games as I've got on these legs, it's coming down to the end. So it's bittersweet," Jones added. "I'm glad this is it, because my body's starting to let me know on a nightly basis that I'm 40. I'd love to see how it felt to be 31 again."Jones has homered on his birthday on four different occasions since coming up to the big leagues in 1993, including his 24th, 29th (twice) and 36th. He has played on his birthday 13 times, going 21 for 49, and the Braves are 11-2 in those games.Jones found about 30 messages on his cell phone when he awoke Tuesday morning, then grabbed a couple more hours sleep and saw another 30 messages waiting for him."I've got a lot a ton of friends out there, both inside and outside the game that thought enough to say happy birthday," he said. "I can't wait to get back home. I got a real cool message from my four boys this morning, and I miss them. Hopefully we won't get rained out tomorrow, because my wife has a rather elaborate birthday party planned for Thursday. And if we have to play Thursday, I'm not going to make it. So I'm crossing my fingers."Jones, playing in his 19th and final big league season, was 1 for 3 with a walk in what could have been his last game at Dodger Stadium if the predictions of rain for Wednesday's series prove accurate. After the third inning, the left field video board flashed the message: "Happy birthday Chipper. The Dodgers salute your remarkable career," while organist Nancy Bea Hefley played "Think Of Me" from the musical "Phantom of the Opera."The seven-time All-Star, whose 457 career homers are the third-most among switch-hitters behind Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray, hit a towering drive into the Atlanta bullpen in right field on Aaron Harang's first pitch of the fifth to put the Braves on the board. Jones is the fifth player to homer on his 40th birthday, along with Bob Thurman (1957), Joe Morgan (1983), Wade Boggs (1998) and Tony Phillips (1999)."He threw me a couple of off-speed pitches my first at-bat, and I thought he might challenge me in at some point that second at-bat," said Jones, who has 13 homers at Dodger Stadium. "I got one up and got out in front of it. You've really got to put a charge into one to hit it out of here at night."All three of my homers that I've hit this year have been really cool," Jones added. "I hit my first one in my first start in Houston with my parents in the stands, and the second one came in my home opener. And now this one. You always want to do something special on your birthday, and it doesn't get more special than that."Doing it at Dodger Stadium made the experience that much more significant for him."This place has always been special to me because I grew up a huge Dodger fan, so this was my Yankee Stadium," Jones said. "My father was from Vero Beach, where they used to train, so I can remember waking up in the mornings before elementary school, and the first thing I would do is turn on the news to see how the Dodgers did. I feel a little different about the Dodgers now than I did back then, obviously, but this is still a special place for me to play and it's still one of the most beautiful ballparks -- to this day."Tyler Pastornicky greeted Dodgers closer Javy Guerra (1-2) with a leadoff single in the ninth and advanced on a sacrifice by pinch-hitter Jack Wilson. Michael Bourn struck out, but Prado drove a 1-2 pitch to center field and over the head of two-time Gold Glove winner Matt Kemp, who caught up to it in the warning track but couldn't hold onto the ball."He's got pop and he drove the ball. I should have caught it," Kemp said. "I was very close. If it hits the glove, it's got to be caught. There are no excuses. You just have to turn the page and get em tomorrow."Eric O'Flaherty (1-0) pitched 1 1-3 hitless innings for the victory and Craig Kimbrel worked a scoreless ninth for his sixth save in as many attempts.The Braves tied it 2-all five batters after Jones' homer on a bases-loaded groundout by Prado, who has 11 RBIs.Juan Rivera gave Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in the first with a two-out homer against lefty Mike Minor that hooked around the left field pole. It made him the 20th player to homer into the Loge deck at Chavez Ravine and the eighth to do it with the Dodgers. The first was Frank Howard in Game 4 of the 1963 World Series against the Yankees' Whitey Ford.Notes: Rivera left the game with a strained left hamstring after getting an infield single off Minor's leg in the sixth. ... Los Angeles placed RHP Matt Guerrier on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 19, because of tendinitis in his elbow and recalled LHP Michael Antonini from Triple-A Albuquerque. ... The Braves recalled RHP Cory Gearrin from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill the roster spot left vacant when RHP Jair Jurrjens was demoted to Gwinnett following his loss on Monday night.
BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.
But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.
The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.
“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.
“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”
Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that.
BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.
Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.
But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.
“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.
“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”
But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.
But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.
Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.
Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.
“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”
The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.
Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.