Braves 9, Cardinals 7

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ATLANTA (AP)—Julio Franco showed that at 45 his memory is still as strong as his swing.

Facing Julian Tavarez as a pinch hitter for the second time in as many days, Franco delivered a go-ahead, two-run double in the seventh inning to lift the Atlanta Braves over the St. Louis Cardinals 9-7 Saturday in a matchup of division leaders.

In the eighth inning Friday night, Tavarez threw Franco an inside sinker, and Franco grounded out.

“I figured he would throw me the same pitch,” Franco said. “I was thinking if he threw the same pitch I could get inside of it and go the other way.”

Franco lined the first pitch from Tavarez into the right-field corner, driving in Nick Green and J.D. Drew and send the Cardinals to only their third loss in 11 games.

Chipper Jones homered twice, and Andruw Jones and Rafael Furcal also homered for the Braves, who opened a season-high eight-game lead over second-place Philadelphia in the NL East. Furcal had four hits.

Albert Pujols homered twice for St. Louis, raising his total to 35 and tying Cincinnati’s Adam Dunn and Philadelphia’s Jim Thome for the major league lead.

Both teams are 21-7 since the All-Star break.

“Those were two teams standing toe to toe,” Chipper Jones said. “You had a little bit of everything, a lot of power, a lot of home runs, good defense, bad defense. … It was just a roller-coaster ride from a momentum standpoint.”

St. Louis, 12 1/2 games ahead of second-place Chicago in the NL Central, took a 7-6 lead with an unearned run in the seventh off Antonio Alfonseca (6-4). With runners on first and second and one out, pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno grounded to first baseman Adam LaRoche, whose throw was dropped at second base by Furcal for an error that allowed Edgar Renteria to score.

Nick Green flied to left against Ray King (4-2) leading off the bottom half, and Larry Walker lost the ball in the sun as Green reached with a double.

“I could have had a welder’s mask on, and still I wouldn’t have caught that ball,” Walker said.

J.D. Drew walked, prompting Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to bring in Tavarez to face Franco. After his double, Franco scored on a two-out single by pinch-hitter Johnny Estrada.

John Smoltz, the Braves’ sixth pitcher, got four outs for his 29th save in 31 chances.

Jason Marquis made his first start against Atlanta, his former team, and allowed a career-high four homers in five innings. He gave up six runs and 10 hits, both matching season highs, but his streak of nine straight winning decisions remained intact when the Cardinals rallied from a 6-3 deficit to tie the game.

“I wanted to come in here and have a good showing, and it went the other way,” Marquis said. “My team kept coming back, and I kept letting them down.”

Atlanta’s Russ Ortiz gave up six runs, eight hits and four walks in five innings.

Pujols’ first homer of the game gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but the Braves went ahead 3-2 in the second. Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones homered, Eddie Perez doubled with two outs and a Marquis pitch sent Ortiz sprawling. The umpires huddled to decide whether the pitch hit Ortiz or the bottom of his bat, and Ortiz took off his batting glove to show the spot the ball hit his left hand.

Ortiz had the hand wrapped after the game.

After Ortiz was awarded first base and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa argued, Furcal singled for a 3-2 lead.

Chipper Jones homered again in the third, but Marquis’ two-out RBI single in the fourth pulled St. Louis to 4-3. Furcal hit a two-run homer in the bottom half.

Pujols’ second homer and Renteria’s sacrifice fly cut the lead to 6-5 in the fifth, and Walker’s RBI single off Tom Martin tied the score in the sixth.

Each team had disputes with plate umpire B.B. Bucknor’s strike zone, and in the sixth inning Bucknor and Chipper Jones exchanged words when Jones, still upset about a call the previous inning, complained from his position at third base.


St. Louis LF Reggie Sanders got his fifth assist when he threw out Furcal at second base when Furcal tried to stretch a single leading. … Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones homered in the same game for the first time this season. Chipper Jones’ first homer traveled an estimated 450 feet—the sixth-longest homer in Turner Field history. … Marquis went 2-for-3 and has nine RBIs this season. He has hits in five of his last six starts. … Pujols has 10 multihomer games, including four this season. Jones’ first multihomer game of the season raised his total to 29.

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