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Braves drop third straight
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vs. Red Sox

When: 4 p.m. today

Where: Turner Field, Atlanta

Pitchers: Braves, Javier Vazquez, (5-6, 3.18); Red Sox, Tim
Wakefield, (9-3, 4.47)

TV, radio: FOX; 102.9 FM

Tickets:, 404-577-9100

Web site:

ATLANTA — Josh Beckett wasn’t feeling well. No problem when he’s facing the Braves.

Beckett pitched seven more scoreless innings against his favorite opponent and David Ortiz homered, leading the first-place Boston Red Sox past slumping Atlanta 4-1 on Friday night.

Beckett (9-3) has faced the Braves twice in the past seven days and still hasn’t given up a run. He threw a five-hit, no-walk shutout at Fenway Park last weekend. This time, he allowed six hits, struck out six and didn’t walk anyone before turning it over to the bullpen.

In his last seven starts against Atlanta, Beckett is 6-0 with a 0.38 ERA.

"I’m just trying to do the same things I do every time I’m out there," he said with a shrug.

Beckett might have taken a shot at a second straight shutout, but he started filling ill in the third inning and finally asked to come out after the seventh on a sweltering night.

"It wasn’t an ideal situation for me," he said. "But I made the pitches when I needed to and we played good defense."

Ortiz continued to show signs of bouncing back from his miserable start. Big Papi is hitting .333 over his last 17 games, with seven homers and 14 RBIs, though he’s still batting just .218 overall.

"He was kind of lost for a while," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He found himself. That’s good for us. We need his bat."

Ortiz shrugged off his surge.

"Whatever gets us ahead, gives us a chance to win the game," he said.

The Red Sox have won 17 of 23 to strengthen their hold on first in the AL East. The Braves, on the other hand, lost their third straight and 11th in the last 16. They have won only one series in the past month and will have to win two straight against Boston to avoid losing another this weekend.

"We hit the ball hard, much harder (against Beckett) than we did in Fenway Park," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It just didn’t happen at the right time."

Atlanta didn’t do anything against Beckett, who allowed only one runner past second base. Diory Hernandez led off the third with a double and moved up on a forceout but was stranded when Chipper Jones took a called third strike.

The Braves started the fourth with consecutive singles by Garret Anderson and Casey Kotchman. They didn’t get any farther — Jeff Francoeur struck out, David Ross flied to right and Hernandez grounded out.

Braves starter Jair Jurrjens (5-6) allowed three earned runs in eight innings but got no offensive support, a familiar theme for the young pitcher from Curacao. He’s 0-4 over his last five starts, his teammates providing only nine runs during that span. Overall, the Braves have scored three runs or less in nine of his 16 starts.

Ortiz broke up a scoreless duel in the fifth, leading off with a drive into the right-field seats for his eighth homer of the season and 297th of his career. Compounding Jurrjens’ woes: He was twice called for balks, both of which contributed to Boston runs.

"Hopefully we can score some runs and win some ballgames," he said. "I’m giving 100 percent every time I go out there. That’s all I can do."

Dustin Pedroia was planning to steal before both balks, which apparently caused Jurrjens to bobble ever so slightly on the mound. Pedroia wound up scoring each time, in addition to chipping in with an RBI single.

"I haven’t seen a balk in a while," he said. "I was actually trying to steal both times and he kind of caught me both times. I think he was going to try to go to second and just kind of froze. But it worked out for us."

Atlanta avoided another shutout when Ross homered off closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.

While the Braves have lost three of four this week to AL East teams Boston and the New York Yankees, at least they’ve bolstered their bottom line.

The crowd of 48,418 — many of them chanting "Let’s go Red Sox!" — was Atlanta’s second sellout in a row and fourth straight turnout above 40,000. The Braves had not managed a crowd that large since selling out their home opener on April 10.

NOTES: Hernandez’s third-inning double snapped an 0-for-19 slump. ... Boston hitting coach Dave Magadan served a one-game suspension following his ejection against Washington on Wednesday for arguing a called strike. ... Former Braves pitcher John Smoltz received a big cheer when he jogged to the outfield to shag flies during batting practice. ... Atlanta CF Nate McLouth was day to day after leaving the game in the eighth. He strained his left hamstring running to first.

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