Chipper Jones' season is going so well he fulfilled both of his birthday wishes.
Jones celebrated his 36th birthday with a home run and a perfect 3-for-3 night at the plate to lead Atlanta past the NL East-leading Florida Marlins 7-4 on Thursday.
``I always feel like I need to do something cool on my birthday,'' the third baseman said. ``Hit a homer or have three hits. I would have taken either one, to be honest. Today, I got 'em both. It was awesome.''
Jones is used to getting what he wants on April 24: he's hitting .500 (18-for-36) with four homers, eight RBIs and 10 runs for his career.
Not that it's anything new this season. Jones raised the best average in the majors to .442, with seven homers and 20 RBIs.
``Every day has been his birthday,'' Braves manager Bobby Cox joked.
In other NL games, it was: Houston 5, Cincinnati 3; Philadelphia 3, Milwaukee 1; Colorado 4, Chicago Cubs 2; St. Louis 6, Pittsburgh 2; Washington 10, N.Y. Mets 5; San Francisco 1, San Diego 0; and Arizona 6, L.A. Dodgers 4.
While Jones got everything from a Dale Earnhardt video box set to an autographed guitar from country stars Rascal Flatts, the best present of all might have been a surprise from Brian McCann, the Braves' slow-running catcher.
In the eighth, he drove one off the wall in right, the ball bouncing away from Jeremy Hermida, and flopped into third with something resembling a headfirst slide for his first career triple. Jones nearly buckled over in the dugout, laughing at McCann's inelegant work on the basepaths.
``That was just pure poetry in motion,'' Jones said, still chuckling about it in the clubhouse. ``That's pretty much how Pete Rose used to draw it up.''
McCann's hustle set up an insurance run. Jeff Francoeur followed with a deep drive to center for the sacrifice fly, his third RBI of the game.
``I owe McCann a beer,'' said Francoeur, a friend of the catcher's since childhood.
Chuck James (2-1) allowed four runs in five innings, but lasted long enough for the win. Jorge Campillo pitched two scoreless innings and Manny Acosta worked the final two for his second save.
Josh Willingham homered and drove in all four Florida runs.
``It was good to have a good game,'' Willingham said, ``but I wanted to win. We didn't win, so it's not so sweet.''
Florida rookie Burke Badenhop (0-2), who started the season at Double-A Carolina, lasted five innings, giving up eight hits and walking one. He didn't strike out anyone.
``It was pretty tough,'' he said of his third big league start. ``Giving up a five-spot after the team gives you a lead, that is pretty rough.''
Astros 5, Reds 3
At Cincinnati, Lance Berkman hit his 18th homer at Great American Ball Park - the most by any visiting player - and drove in three runs, leading Houston to its fifth straight win.
Berkman had a two-run homer and a run-scoring double off rookie Johnny Cueto (1-2).
Right-hander Jack Cassel (1-0) had a run-scoring single for his first career RBI.
Phillies 3, Brewers 1
At Milwaukee, Pat Burrell's two-out, two-run double off reliever David Riske (0-1) broke a tie in the eighth, and the Phillies held on to beat Milwaukee.
Philadelphia reliever Tom Gordon (1-2) was credited with the victory after pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh. Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for his fifth save in five chances.
Rockies 4, Cubs 2
At Denver, Aaron Cook (3-1) won his third straight start with eight strong innings, and Brian Fuentes earned his first save in 10 months for Colorado.
Kevin Hart (2-1) took the loss in relief to snap the Cubs' six-game win streak. They'd won nine of their previous 10.
Fuentes, who took over the closer's role from struggling Manny Corpas before the game, worked a perfect ninth to record his first save since June 21.
Nationals 10, Mets 5
At Washington, Felipe Lopez's grand slam and two-run single gave him a career high-tying six RBIs and led Washington to just its fourth victory in the past 20 games.
Washington finished with 13 hits and made a winner of Mike O'Connor (1-0), who made his first appearance in the majors since 2006 after being called up from Triple-A Columbus.
Oliver Perez (2-1) was the loser.
Cardinals 6, Pirates 2
At Pittsburgh, Brian Barton had a two-run single in the fifth inning - the first hit off erratic Pittsburgh starter Tom Gorzelanny (1-3) - and St. Louis avoided its first three-game skid of the season.
Joel Pineiro (1-2) pitched seven effective innings and Albert Pujols went 2-for-2 and reached base in all five plate appearances.
Diamondbacks 6, Dodgers 4
At Los Angeles, Jeff Salazar hit a two-run homer and Conor Jackson also had a pair of RBIs, leading Arizona over the Dodgers.
Edgar Gonzalez (1-1) allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings. Brandon Lyon pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save in eight attempts.
Chad Billingsley (0-4) got the loss despite a career-high 12 strikeouts. The right-hander allowed five runs, six hits and two walks over six innings.
Giants 1, Padres 0
At San Diego, Rich Aurilia homered off Chris Young in the seventh inning to keep Tim Lincecum perfect this season and give San Francisco a win over the Padres, who have lost eight of nine.
Young (1-2) allowed two hits in seven innings while striking out 10 for San Diego.
Lincecum (4-0) extended his scoreless streak to 16 1-3 innings and lowered his ERA to 1.23. He allowed four hits in 6 1-3 innings, struck out nine and walked five. Brian Wilson pitched the ninth for his seventh save in eight chances.

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