Braves 6, Cubs 0, 1st game; Braves 9, Cubs 4, 2nd game
ATLANTA (AP)—Andruw Jones will never forget Game 1 of the 1996 World Series. Only 19, he became the first National League player to homer in his first two Series at-bats.
The stage Thursday night was hardly Yankee Stadium in October, but Jones was impressed when 21-year-old Jeff Francoeur homered in his major league debut.
“That’s what you do at this level if you want to make a good first impression,” Jones said. “He’s got a lot of talent. So do a lot of other guys in this clubhouse.”
Jones hit his major league-leading 27th homer and Francoeur, considered the organization’s top prospect, added a three-run shot in a six-run eighth inning as the Atlanta Braves beat Chicago 9-4 on Thursday night to sweep a doubleheader and extend the Cubs’ longest losing streak in three years.
Chicago’s eight-game slide is its worst since dropping nine in a row from May 8-18, 2002.
The Cubs blew a 4-3 lead when Jones’ two-run shot chased reliever Roberto Novoa (2-2). Francoeur, an outfielder, was called up from Double-A Mississippi earlier in the day and he homered off Glendon Rusch for his first career hit.
A tip from hitting coach Terry Pendleton clued Francoeur into Rusch’s repertoire.
“T.P. pulled me aside and said, ‘He’s got a real slow curve and he tails his fastball,”’ Francoeur said. “So it was neat.”
John Foster (2-1) pitched a scoreless eighth to earn the win as the Braves batted around in the bottom half of the inning. Marcus Giles, who went 5-for-9 in the doubleheader, ended the scoring with an RBI single.
Horacio Ramirez (8-5) won the opener 6-0 with his first career shutout. The Braves, who have won 16 of 21, chased Chicago starter Mark Prior (5-3) in the fifth when Julio Franco hit a three-run homer.
Aramis Ramirez put the Cubs ahead 1-0 in the fourth inning of the second game with an RBI single that ended the team’s streak of 19 consecutive scoreless innings. He added his 19th homer in the sixth, a two-run shot that made it 4-3.
The Braves had taken a 3-2 lead in the fifth on Rafael Furcal’s sixth homer, a two-run shot.
Jerome Williams started for the Cubs and allowed eight hits and three runs in six innings.
John Smoltz, who sought his first win as a starter over the Cubs since April 5, 1997, went seven innings for the seventh time in eight starts. He allowed six hits and four runs. He entered with a 15-4 career record, a 2.83 ERA and eight saves against Chicago.
The Cubs, playing their third straight game without All-Star first baseman Derrek Lee, were outscored 24-5 in the four-game series.
“It wasn’t pleasant in a lot of ways,” Chicago manager Dusty Baker said. “It was a tough day, a tough trip.”
Lee leads the majors with a .377 average, but he felt a twinge in his left shoulder as he struck out Tuesday. He is listed as day-to-day.
Fucal had a run-scoring double in the big fifth inning and Jones hit an RBI single before the 46-year-old Franco’s seventh homer of the season.
Ramirez threw his third career complete game and first since May 20, 2004, against Arizona. The left-hander allowed three singles and one walk.
Prior gave up seven hits, six runs, four walks and struck out five before being replaced by Sergio Mitre with two outs in the fifth.
“They did some things with some good pitches and just kind of waited for a big break, which they got,” Prior said. “I had a tough time throwing my curveball for strikes. In fact, I didn’t have a curveball at all, so I think going out there throwing pretty much two pitches, it’s tough against this lineup.”
Ramirez went 3-4 with a 5.65 ERA in nine starts during the first two months of the season, but he recovered to go 4-0 with a 3.55 ERA in six starts in June. He lasted 4 2-3 innings in his previous outing, a 6-3 loss at Philadelphia last Saturday.
“I was throwing more first-pitch strikes than usual,” Ramirez said. “If I got behind in the count, I could throw a two-seamer. I’d been throwing cutters that didn’t cut. I was able to minimize those today.”
Prior, facing the Braves for the third time and first since 2003, dropped to 0-3 with a career ERA of 7.88 in 15 innings against Atlanta.
After returning June 26 from a non-displaced fracture in his right elbow, Prior pitched six shutout innings to beat the White Sox 2-0, but has lost two straight starts.
Francoeur, an Atlanta native and a first-round draft pick in 2002, received a standing ovation in the third as he made his first career at-bat. He grounded out to third. … The Cubs lost seven straight from April 30-May 7. … Braves starters Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton said they will pitch another simulated game Saturday instead of making a rehab start in Class A.