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James shines in Braves third straight win

POSTED: May 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Atlanta Braves' Yunel Escobar scores on a Mark Teixeira base hit as Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Gary Bennett handles the late throw in the fifth inning of the Braves' 5-1 win on Saturday at Turner Field.

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ATLANTA — Chuck James served up a fat pitch to an old friend. That was the only thing he gave the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Filling in for Tom Glavine, James allowed one run in five innings and the Atlanta bullpen shut down the Dodgers the rest of the way for the Braves’ third straight win, 4-1 on Saturday.

Mark Teixeira’s two-run single highlighted a four-run fifth that accounted for all the Atlanta scoring and handed James (1-1) the win.

The slender lefty was recalled from Triple-A Richmond on Friday night before after Glavine went on the disabled list for the first time in his 22-year career. James caught a 6 a.m. flight from Richmond and landed about eight hours before his first pitch.

“It’s been a long time since I went out and threw and felt like I could compete out there and have fun,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

Andruw Jones, the longtime Braves center fielder now playing for the Dodgers, showed signs of breaking out of his slump. He hit a towering drive deep into the left-field seats in the second, his first homer for Los Angeles. The 10-time Gold Glover couldn’t resist a little poke at James.

“I saved him so many times last year, that’s the one thing he can do for me,” Jones quipped.
“Up and in is a dangerous pitch to him,” James said, “especially when you don’t have a lot on it.”

Otherwise, the Braves starter was in command. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out two before giving way to the Braves bullpen. Jorge Campillo pitched two scoreless innings, Blaine Boyer went one and Manny Acosta worked the ninth for his first career save.

James won 11 games each of the last two years for the Braves, but he struggled down the stretch in 2007 and was diagnosed after the season with a partially torn rotator cuff. Brought along carefully during spring training, he started the season on the disabled list before making a quicker-than-expected start at Colorado after Mike Hampton went on the DL.

That one didn’t go so well — James surrendered six runs in three innings of a 12-6 loss. But, after making one start at Richmond, he looked like a much different pitcher against the Dodgers.

“I didn’t know where to restart or go back to,” he said. “Just going down there in kind of a stress-free environment and getting to work on some stuff down there, I feel like I’m definitely on the right track to getting back.”

Chipper Jones didn’t go deep after hitting two homers in each of the two previous games, but the Braves third baseman did extend his hitting streak to 11 games with a third-inning single.

Andruw Jones, who still has a home in Atlanta, changed his luck by parking in the Braves’ lot.

“I just decided to park there,” he said. “I’m surprised they didn’t tell me to pull my car out.”
Jones got a standing ovation from the Turner Field crowd after homering. He waved to his parents, sitting in John Smoltz’s luxury box, on his way back to the visiting dugout.

Chad Billingsley (0-3) matched his career high with nine strikeouts and breezed through the first four innings. But it all fell apart for the Los Angeles starter after he fanned pinch-hitter Brayan Pena leading off the fifth.

Kelly Johnson walked, Yunel Escobar singled to left and Chipper Jones walked to load the bases. Teixeira then ripped a pitch the opposite way to left, driving in two runs to put the Braves ahead.
“It was good to get that hit,” said Teixeira, who’s beginning to snap out of his early-season slump. “That was really the only inning where we could score.”

The Braves weren’t done. Brian McCann walked to load the bases again, and Jeff Francoeur made it 3-1 with an RBI groundout. Finally, Billingsley’s defense bailed him out.

Mark Kotsay lined a run-scoring single to right, but Matt Kemp threw out the slow-running McCann at the plate to end the inning. McCann didn’t even bother sliding.

That was the final pitch for Billingsley, who allowed six hits and walked five in five innings.

“I started rushing,” he said. “I was trying to do damage control.”

Notes: The Braves have allowed only two runs in their last three games. ... Escobar stretched his hitting streak to 12 games. ... Billingsley had nine Ks for the fourth time in his career. ... The Braves (8-9) have a chance to get back to .500 in Sunday’s series finale. ... James had some tightness in his forearm, but said it shouldn’t keep him from making his next start.



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