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Francoeur gives Braves win with game-winning homer in the ninth

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

Atlanta Braves' Jeff Francoeur, upper right, celebrates with teammates Saturday after hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Atlanta. Atlanta won 3-1.

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ATLANTA — Jeff Francoeur was glad Randy Johnson was out of the game in the ninth inning.

"He might not throw the ball 95, 96 (mph), but his slider, when you think it’s going to get over the plate, it comes in and bites you," Francoeur said. "He’s phenomenal."

Francoeur hit a game-ending, two-run homer off Chad Qualls in the ninth, and the Atlanta Braves overcame a sparkling 10-strikeout performance by Johnson to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 Saturday.

Johnson reached double-digits in strikeouts for the first time since May 20 last year against Pittsburgh and the 210th time overall, five behind Nolan Ryan’s record for games with 10 or more strikeouts. The Big Unit allowed one run, five hits and no walks in six innings.

"I felt I had good command with all my pitches," Johnson said. "It’s kind of frustrating, but ‘s been a frustrating road trip for everybody."

With 4,663 strikeouts, Johnson needs nine to tie Roger Clemens for second place behind Ryan (5,714).

"I don’t put a lot of credence in that," Johnson said. "If you don’t win the ballgame, it doesn’t matter."

Atlanta has won seven of its last eight games while the Diamondbacks have lost five of six.

Braves starter Jorge Campillo, coming off his first big league win, allowed four hits in four scoreless innings. He left after 59 pitches because of two blisters on his right middle finger and a third one that’s developing on his index finger.

A converted reliever making his second straight start, Campillo has pitched 10 consecutive scoreless innings with no walks, 10 strikeouts and five hits allowed.

"With four or five days off, I’ll be fine," Campillo said. "My arm feels fine."

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox sounded less confident.

"His blisters went down to the meat (of his middle finger)," Cox said.

With the score 1-1 in the ninth, Chipper Jones walked against Doug Slaten (0-1) leading off, Mark Teixeira grounded out and Qualls relieved. Francoeur homered on his second pitch.

"It was like choose your poison with Teixeira and Francoeur," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.

Francoeur hopes the homer can lift his offensive funk. He was hitting .154 in 26 at-bats, a span of seven games, and had gone 33 games without a homer before facing Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano on Wednesday.

"I haven’t felt the greatest at the plate and facing Randy Johnson and Doug Davis last night gets you off balance," Francoeur said. "It doesn’t exactly do a lot for your confidence. Hopefully this is something that gets me going here and gets me back feeling relaxed at the plate and grooving it."

Blaine Boyer (1-3), Atlanta’s fourth pitcher, threw 1 2-3 hitless innings to complete the staff’s three-hitter.

"They pitched well to us," Melvin said. "The first guy threw a lot of changeups and cutters. He stayed on the corners."

Yunel Escobar put the Braves ahead in the third following Gregor Blanco’s leadoff triple.

Melvin called back Johnson from the on-deck circle in the seventh with a runner on second and two outs, and pinch-hitter Augie Ojeda’s single off Jeff Bennett tied the score.

Bennett had escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth when Conor Jackson hit a grounder to shortstop that Escobar turned into an inning-ending double play. Fielding the ball with his right hand, Escobar stepped on second and threw to Teixeira on a bounce.

Johnson had no problem with Melvin’s decision to go with Ojeda. Instead, the Big Unit was still upset with the pitch he made to Blanco in the third.

"In a one-run game like that, little mistakes can make a difference," Johnson said. "The triple stands out a little bit more than it should. I got behind in the count, and the next man up was the pitcher. Things were looking up, and I was optimistic, but they scored a run."Notes: Braves RHP John Smoltz (shoulder inflammation) to make a rehab start for Double-A Mississippi on Saturday at Tennessee. ... Bennett singled in the fifth for his first career hit. ... Jackson’s average with runners in scoring position dropped to .349 (15-for-40).



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