Braves 8, Phillies 4
ATLANTA (AP)—Julio Franco stopped surprising his teammates a long time ago, and with good reason.
Already this season, the 45-year-old Franco broke his own record for being the oldest player to hit a pinch-hit home run, and he’s the first non-pitcher to play at this age since Carlton Fisk, who caught 25 games for the White Sox in 1993.
Add another piece of it to the list.
Franco became the oldest player in major league history to hit a grand slam, connecting in the first inning to lead Atlanta past Philadelphia.
Estrada finished a triple short of the cycle and drove in three runs for the Braves, who won for the third time in four games.
Franco hit the first pitch he saw from Josh Hancock into the seats in right for his first slam since Sept. 1, 1996, when he was with Cleveland. That was part of a five-run first for Atlanta.
Fisk held the previous record, homering with the bases loaded in 1991 at 43 years old.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” Franco said. “As long as we win, that’s all that matters. If I can contribute to win some ball games, you feel good about that.”
“That felt good, after the first inning to see Julio hit the grand slam,” Thomson said. “You don’t try to change the way you pitch when that happens, but there’s also a little sense of relief inside of you.”
The Phillies scored three runs in the eighth off Chris Reitsma, including a two-run homer by Chase Utley. Pat Burrell added an RBI single, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from losing their fourth straight.
“You have to keep battling,” Thome said. “We haven’t played well the last four games, and to sneak a win would be great.”
Atlanta made quick work of Hancock (0-1). He was called up earlier in the day and took the spot in the rotation normally occupied by Vicente Padilla, who went on the disabled list last week with tendinitis in his elbow.
In this one, Hancock didn’t make it to the third. The Braves tagged him for five runs on five hits in the first, highlighted by Franco’s homer. Estrada added an RBI double earlier in the inning.
In the second, Rafael Furcal singled and later scored on a single by J.D. Drew. Furcal ran through third-base coach Fredi Gonzalez’s stop sign, and slid under a high relay throw from shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
“It was just a bad start, from the first pitch,” Hancock said. “After the first pitch, it came undone.”
Estrada added a two-run shot in the fourth off Elizardo Ramirez to give him a team-leading 37 RBIs.
But his performance was overshadowed by Franco, who is doing wondrous things at an age when most players are long retired. Earlier this season, he became the oldest position player to appear in a major league game since Minnie Minoso in 1980, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Minoso was 57 when he pinch-hit for the Chicago White Sox on Oct. 5, 1980.
Franco made his debut in 1982 with the Philadelphia Phillies at 23, and won the AL batting title in 1991 with Texas. Since signing with the Braves in 2001, he has platooned at first base and served as a pinch-hitter.
“Records don’t mean anything to me,” Franco repeated. “Nobody knows how long you’re going to be on this Earth.”
Franco is the oldest player in the majors. Left-hander Jesse Orosco heldthat distinction before he retired last winter after pitching at 46.
Ramirez walked on four pitches in the fifth during the first official plate appearance of his career. … Thomson got through the first inning on only seven pitches. … Phillies CF Marlon Byrd made a nice recovery to snare a line drive by Nick Green in the third. Byrd started to his left, stumbled abit, then raced to his right and made a diving catch.