Chipper's batting title just shy of Mantle mark

Chipper Jones held off St. Louis' Albert Pujols to win his first batting title, but he just missed doing something that would have made his father extra proud.

Larry Jones taught his son as a switch-hitter in part because he idolized Mickey Mantle. With a hit as a pinch-hitter in Houston on Sunday, the Atlanta Braves third baseman could have bested the New York Yankees legend for the highest average ever for a switch-hitter.

But Jones walked in his final at-bat to finish with a .364 average - better than Pujols' .357 mark but just short of Mantle's record of .365 set in 1957.

Jones' National League batting title was the first for a Brave since current Atlanta hitting coach and Snellville resident Terry Pendleton finished first with a .319 average in 1991 as the team went from worst to first in the NL.

Pendleton's championship also had been the last won by a switch-hitter before Jones turned the trick.

Jones just missed the batting title in 2007, hitting .337 to place second behind the .340 average of Colorado's Matt Holliday.

The 36-year-old hit .400 over the first 10 weeks of this season before a variety of ailments started to take their toll.

He didn't start any of the final eight games after his sore right shoulder got worse.

Jones is scheduled to have an MRI on his shoulder, but the Braves don't believe that there is any structural damage.

Despite Jones' productive season, the Braves - crippled by injuries to their pitching staff - lost 90 games for the first time since 1990 as they missed the playoff for the third straight year after making it 14 consecutive times.

At least there is a good omen for 2009. The Braves, who won 72 games this year, finished against Houston each of the last two seasons. Next year, the regular season will end with a home game against Washington on Oct. 4.