Braves 7, Giants 1

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ATLANTA (AP)—Horacio Ramirez always seems to pitch well at Turner Field. Jeff Francoeur doesn’t care where he plays.

Ramirez pitched into the eighth inning and Francoeur had four more hits, leading the Atlanta Braves past the San Francisco Giants 7-1 on Tuesday night.

Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson drove in two runs apiece for the Braves, who scored four runs in the first and three more in the third to make things easy for Ramirez (10-7).

The left-hander improved to 7-1 at home, allowing only six hits in 7 2-3 innings. He also had an RBI single.

“I love pitching here,” said Ramirez, who has a 2.91 ERA at home and 5.87 on the road. “But I can’t explain why my numbers are so much better at home than on the road.”

Francoeur’s numbers are astonishing—home and away. The 21-year-old rookie’s four hits were a career high and his 12th multihit game since being called up from the minors July 7, raising his average to .432.

“I just want to keep it going,” said Francoeur, who has a 10-game hitting streak. “I want to ride this momentum out.”

The first-place Braves got off to a good start in their longest homestand of the season, a 12-game, 13-day stint at Turner Field.

“It’s always good to get the first one,” manager Bobby Cox said.

Atlanta batted around twice in the first three innings, knocking out Giants starter Brad Hennessey (4-4) in the third.

The Braves piled up 16 hits. All but one starter, third baseman Wilson Betemit, had at least one.

Andruw Jones reached base four times on two hits and two walks. He also made a diving catch on Edgardo Alfonzo’s liner to end the sixth, preventing the Giants from scoring another run.

“We seemed to find every hole available to get a hit,” Cox said. “But we hit the ball. We didn’t strike out.”

Hennessey has struggled in the first inning, and he had only himself to blame for this mess. He walked two straight hitters before Jones singled to load the bases. LaRoche followed with a two-run double into the right-field corner.

Two rookies finished off the rally. Francoeur made it 3-0 with an infield single and Brian McCann drove home the fourth run with a single to right.

Hennessey has given up first-inning runs in six of his 11 starts.

“I think I’m Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he said. “I sit there and think about (the first inning) all the time now.”

Added manager Felipe Alou, “The first inning again. If you don’t get him in the first inning, you have to wait until the ninth.”

Francoeur singled leading off the third, but it appeared he would be stranded when Hennessey retired the next two hitters and got ahead 0-2 on Ramirez. But the Braves’ pitcher singled past shortstop on the next pitch, scoring Francoeur from second.

“He had thrown five straight fastballs by me,” Ramirez said, referring to a first-inning strikeout. “I just happened to hit one.”

Ramirez stopped at third on Rafael Furcal’s double into the left-field corner, then both runners scored on Johnson’s double to center.

Randy Winn attempted a diving catch, but the ball skimmed under his outstretched glove and bounced away, giving the Braves a 7-1 lead.

Hennessey was yanked after he walked the next hitter. He gave up nine hits, four walks and all seven runs in 2 2-3 innings.

The Giants scored their lone run in the third, putting together three straight hits with two outs. Lance Niekro, the nephew of 300-game winner and longtime Braves pitcher Phil Niekro, had an RBI single.

The Hall of Famer, who still lives in the Atlanta area, attended the game. So did Lance’s father, longtime major leaguer Joe Niekro.

“It was good to get out there,” Lance Niekro said. “I have family and friends here, probably about 15. I’ll have about 30 tomorrow.”

But Ramirez prevented a big inning by retiring Ray Durham with the bases loaded. He cruised the rest of the way, allowing only one other runner to reach second base before he was pulled with two outs in the eighth.

“When you have a big lead like that,” Ramirez said, “you can emphasize being aggressive in the strike zone.”

Notes

Braves LHP Mike Hampton, on the DL with a sore back, made his second rehab start in the Gulf Coast League. He went five scoreless innings. … Ramirez reached 10 wins for the second time in his career. He went 12-4 two seasons ago. … Niekro had three of the Giants’ eight hits. … Braves 2B Marcus Giles had an eighth-inning single to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, best of his career.

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