Braves 7, Giants 6

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ATLANTA (AP)—Even with a big lead in the NL East, the Atlanta Braves aren’t taking anything for granted.

Playing like a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Braves rallied for two runs in the ninth inning Monday to defeat the San Francisco Giants 7-6.

Julio Franco tied the game with an RBI triple and Andruw Jones followed with a game-winning single off Giants closer Dustin Hermanson.

“We take every game like it’s our last game,” Jones said. “Especially when they give us opportunities like they gave us today. Every opportunity we have to win games, we’ve got to take advantage.”

The Braves have lost only one of their last 19 series since losing two of three games at Florida June 22-24. They improved their record against the NL West this month to 13-4 after taking three of four from the Giants.

Barry Bonds was not in the starting lineup a day after he hit two of the three longest home runs in Turner Field history. He pinch hit in the ninth and grounded out against Roman Colon (1-0) to end the inning.

Chipper Jones began the day with his wife for the birth of their third son, but he was in the dugout by the sixth inning. He struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.

J.D. Drew, who went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer, started the ninth-inning rally with a single. Franco followed with another shot to right that rolled past Ricky Ledee for a game-tying triple.

“Not bad for an old man,” said the 46-year-old Franco after his second triple of the season. “You might never see that again.”

After Hermanson walked Eli Marrero, Jones lined a 2-2 pitch into right field to drive in pinch-runner Mike Hampton with the winning run.

“Those are the kind you love to win,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Those come-from-behinders are great.”

Hermanson (5-6) gave up two runs and three hits without recording an out for his second blown save in nine chances.

“I thought we had ‘em,” Giants manager Felipe Alou said. “I’d like to go into the ninth with a one-run lead in every game.”

“I was trying not to give him anything he could hit to the outfield for a tag-up,” Hermanson said. “I had to be fine with everything.”

It was a painful loss for the Giants, who dropped one game behind the Chicago Cubs and a half-game back of San Diego in the NL wild-card race. They’ll try to rebound when they play host to Colorado and Arizona in a six-game homestand that begins Tuesday night.

“Nobody is going to hand it to us, we have to work hard,” said Alou, who called the next six games “a must homestand.”

Drew hit .370 (10-for-27) during the Braves’ 6-1 homestand. His 29 homers and 81 RBIs are both career highs. He hit 27 homers and drove in 73 runs for St. Louis in 2001.

“It’s been a fun five months,” Drew said. “Hopefully, I can stay strong and finish up with a good month.”

Michael Tucker, who ended an 0-for-27 slump with a two-run single in the sixth inning, had four RBIs for the Giants.

J.T. Snow gave the Giants a 6-4 lead in the seventh with a bases-loaded double. Tucker also tried to score on the play, but was thrown out at the plate after a run-down to end the inning.

The Braves narrowed the lead to 6-5 in the home half. Drew led off with a single to center and scored on a sacrifice fly by Marrero.

The Braves went ahead 3-0 in the third when Drew homered off Giants rookie Noah Lowry. Andruw Jones made it 4-1 with an RBI single in the fourth.

Lowry gave up six hits and four runs with three walks in five innings.

Tucker cut the Braves’ lead to 4-3 in the sixth with a two-run single, then tied it with a bases-loaded walk in the seventh.

With two outs, Kevin Gryboski loaded the bases by giving up a single to Dustan Mohr and walking pinch-hitter Pedro Feliz and Ray Durham. Cox brought in left-hander Tom Martin, who walked Tucker to force in the game-tying run.

Tucker also drove in the Giants’ first run in the fourth inning with an RBI grounder.

Notes

The Braves have had 10 or more hits in 10 straight games. … Atlanta begins a five-game road trip Tuesday night at Philadelphia, the first of 19 straight games against teams from the NL East. … With his two doubles, Durham has five doubles in his last 10 games. … Braves 2B Nick Green made his first start since Aug. 14.

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