ATLANTA — The last two seasons have been a drag for Jeff Francoeur.
For one night, Atlanta’s former hometown star was able to relish a big moment.
“That was the best swing I’ve had in a long time,” he said. “Most of the time, I can keep my emotions in check, but I had to let out a little smile on that one.”
Francoeur hit a go-ahead solo home run in the ninth inning off Braves closer Billy Wagner and the New York Mets snapped a two-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over Atlanta on Tuesday night.
The Braves have lost three of four and now lead second-place Philadelphia, a 6-1 winner at Florida, by two games in the NL East. Atlanta’s 35-14 record at home, where they had won 25 of 32, leads the majors.
Fourth-place New York avoided falling under .500 for the first time since May 23. Francoeur, who was traded by Atlanta to the Mets last year, is hitting .125 in 40 at-bats since the All-Star break. The homer was his 10th.
Growing up in Atlanta, Francoeur was a standout at nearby Parkview High School and was drafted by the Braves in the first round of 2002.
He made a national splash as a rookie and was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated before the Braves grew tired of his free-swinging approach at the plate and dealt him to the Mets on July 10, 2009.
Francoeur has recently been mentioned in trade speculation with New York.
“It’s been a tough 31/2 weeks,” Francoeur said. “To do something right to help the team out felt really good. I know this team needs me to step up.”
Reliever Manny Acosta (2-1) earned the win after allowing one hit and three walks in 1 2-3 innings.
Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 23rd save in 28 chances.
Wagner (5-2) gave up one hit and one run with one strikeout. The left-hander had earned three straight saves after blowing his previous two chances July 21 and 23.
Francoeur used an inside-out swing on a fastball that landed in the right-field seats.
“I made a good pitch. He hit it,” Wagner said. “I mean it was a really, really, really good pitch. If anything, I’m mad because I threw it so good, on the black. It’s going to come down to a big hit, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Melky Cabrera drove in Atlanta’s first two runs with an RBI fielder’s choice grounder in the second and a RBI triple in the sixth.
Reliever Kyle Farnsworth, pitching in his first game since the Braves acquired him in a deadline deal with Kansas City, spoiled Derek Lowe’s chance to win for just the second time in eight starts.
Farnsworth blew a 2-1 lead when Francoeur walked on four pitches, moved to second on Luis Castillo’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Chris Carter’s pinch-hit RBI single.
The Mets are 6-16 in their last 22 road games.
“For Carter to come off the bench and get a big hit for us, that was huge,” New York manager Jerry Manuel said. “Hopefully, this will be the beginning of something big.”
R.A. Dickey’s career-best streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings, which began June 20 at Arizona, ended when the Braves took a 1-0 lead in the second.
Alex Gonzalez, who was hit by a pitch, moved to third on Rick Ankiel’s single. He scored from third on Cabrera’s fielder’s choice RBI, thanks in part to a hard slide into second by Rick Ankiel that disrupted shortstop Jose Reyes’ throw to first.
New York tied it 1-1 in the third when Castillo reached on a bunt single, moved to second on Dickey’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Reyes’ RBI double.
Dickey struck out Eric Hinske to escape a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, but Cabrera’s RBI triple put the Braves ahead 2-1 in the sixth.
The right-hander allowed five hits, two runs, four walks and struck out two in six innings.
“His knuckleball darts all over the place,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “If he’s got his control, we’ve got to mix in a couple of hits here and there.”
Atlanta had lost six of Lowe’s last seven starts, but the right-hander issued no walks for the first time since Sept. 21 in an 11-3 win over the Mets.
Lowe gave up six hits, one hit and struck out three.
Home plate umpire and crew chief John Hirschbeck decided to continue the game through a light rain in the second, third and fourth innings.
The only hold-up came in the third, lasting about 4 minutes, when Brian McCann accidentally slung his wet bat into the stands along the third-base line. Hirschbeck went to the mound and called for the grounds crew to add dirt on the mound so pitchers would have a dry landing surface.
Farnsworth appeared to have difficulty with the landing surface in the seventh as he used his cleats a couple of times to move dirt back and forth.