ATLANTA (AP)—Take that, 40-year-olds.
Until Gonzalez seized the spotlight, it had been a good series for baseball’s version of the geriatric set.
On Tuesday, Arizona’s Randy Johnson became the oldest pitcher in major league history to throw a perfect game at age 40.
One night later, 45-year-old Julio Franco broke his own record for oldest player to hit a pinch-hit homer, capping Atlanta’s four-run rally in the eighth.
“Having a 4-0 lead and losing that, then coming back to win, that was big for us,” Gonzalez said. “Our main concern is to get some wins and get back in this race.”
The Braves, who had gone 18 innings without a run, finally erupted in the eighth. Franco tied it with a two-out, two-run homer, eclipsing the record he set as a pinch-hitter two weeks ago against San Diego.
“The home run was important in the eighth inning,” said Franco, the oldest player in the majors. “Not anymore. I came here to win the ballgame. Anything short of that, it doesn’t matter.”
Gonzalez hit a long two-run homer in the sixth, giving the Diamondbacks a seemingly comfortable lead. Brandon Webb pitched seven scoreless innings, but his bullpen couldn’t hold it.
No worries. Gonzo came through again in the 11th with another drive into the right-field seats, breaking the 4-4 tie. It was the 20th multihomer game of his career and the third this season.
Almanza thought he had struck out Gonzalez on an 0-2 pitch, but umpire Bruce Dreckman called it a ball. Two pitches later, the left-hander hung a slider.
“He got the call,” Almanza said. “Then he came back and got me.”
Finley also homered on a slider that got too much of the plate.
“That’s my out pitch for lefties,” Almanza said. “I just threw it over the plate and paid for it.”
Brian Bruney (2-0) earned the win with two scoreless innings.
Arizona called in Jose Valverde, who tried to sneak a high fastball past Franco. But he went the opposite way, hitting the ball just inside the foul pole down the right-field line to tie the game at 4.
“I’m not trying to hit a home run,” Franco said. “I knew he threw hard. I didn’t want to overswing. He threw a pitch up and away, and I got lucky.”
After Franco rounded the bases, the Diamondbacks protested that he had too much pine tar on his bat. The umpires removed it from the game, but the homer stood.
“(Arizona’s Bob) Brenly is a great manager, but what’s he going to accomplish by that?” Franco asked. “You’ve got to come out before I bat, not after I’ve hit a homer. All they could do was tell me not to use the bat. Big deal.”
Atlanta had 10 hits after failing to even reach first against Johnson. The Big Unit retired all 27 batters for the 17th perfect game in major league history.
Brenly didn’t mind the way the Diamondbacks followed up.
“It was perfect enough,” he said. “It was a win. Webb pitched a heck of a ballgame. The offense did just enough.”
The Braves didn’t waste much time picking up their first hit off Webb. The second batter, Adam LaRoche, singled to left.
But he was stranded, as were eight other runners through the first seven innings. Atlanta was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against Webb, who allowed six hits and walked three.
Atlanta starter John Thomson breezed through four innings, facing only one batter above the minimum while benefiting from two double plays.
Thomson looked to be in good shape when Brent Mayne also grounded out. But Webb bounced an RBI single to left, putting the Diamondbacks ahead 2-0.
Matt Kata started the sixth with a single, and Gonzalez followed with a 423-foot drive into the right-field seats. Thomson didn’t even look up andright fielder J.D. Drew barely moved as the ball soared into the stands.
The Braves dropped to 17-21 with their third straight loss—the latest in the season they’ve been four games under .500 since 1992. … Mayne, the Arizona catcher, was struck on the left elbow by Jesse Garcia’s backswing in the seventh. X-rays were negative. … Webb has allowed just one run in 14career innings against the Braves.