Braves 9, Diamondbacks 5

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ATLANTA (AP)—Julio Franco figures it is inevitable that he will become the oldest player to hit a home run in a major league game.

He’s getting close.

Only 10 days shy of his 47th birthday, Franco hit a three-run shot to lead the Atlanta Braves past the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-5 on Saturday.

On June 27, 1930, Jack Quinn was eight days shy of his 47th birthday when the pitcher hit a homer for the Philadelphia Athletics.

“Those are records that mean a lot because you stayed in the game for a long time, but I want to play until I’m 50 and I know I’m going to hit another one,” Franco said.

There was no doubt about Saturday’s homer, Franco’s ninth, which traveled an estimated 429 feet deep into the seats in left-center.

“You forget how strong that man is because he usually doesn’t go out and try to hit home runs,” said Chipper Jones, who had three hits, including a go-ahead double in the seventh inning, to help the Braves avoid their first three-game home losing streak this year.

Franco also played a key role defensively with three assists at first base, including a diving grab of Craig Counsell’s grounder before throwing to pitcher Blain Boyer in the seventh inning.

“I was ready to get the ball and Julio came out of nowhere and grabbed it,” Braves second baseman Pete Orr said. “He might be almost 47, but he sure doesn’t look it and he sure doesn’t play like it.”

Franco also had a first-inning sacrifice fly, giving him four RBIs.

“He obviously has some good hand-eye coordination,” said 43-year-old Arizona manager Bob Melvin. “I’m past amazed. I think the whole league is. When he has the inkling, he can pull one like he did today. Yesterday I said to him, ‘Do you ever stop?’ He just smiled.”

Jones has five hits in two games since missing eight starts with a strained right rotator cuff. He reached base four times Saturday with the double, two singles and a walk.

Pinch-hitter Ryan Langerhans led off the seventh with a double off reliever Lance Cormier (7-3). Rafael Furcal walked, and both runners scored on Jones’ double to center, breaking a 5-5 tie.

Shawn Green hit a two-run shot for Arizona.

Atlanta’s John Thomson and Arizona’s Russ Ortiz were activated from long stays on the disabled list, and each looked rusty in giving up five runs over six innings.

Thomson, who missed almost three months with a strained flexor tendon in his right middle finger, gave up eight hits and five runs—four earned—with five strikeouts.

Asked if he was pleased with his outing, Thomson said, “Physically, yes. Results-wise, no. Every time we got a lead I go out and give it back to them. That’s something I’m not used to doing.”

Ortiz, who missed almost two months with a stress fracture in his right rib cage, also gave up eight hits and five runs with one walk and one strikeout against his former teammates.

“I felt great,” Ortiz said. “It was kind of bittersweet, coming back and feeling good, but I’d have loved to get a `W.”’

Said Melvin: “I thought he pitched well. The only pitch that really hurt him was the home run to Franco.”

John Foster (3-1) got the final out in the seventh inning to earn the win.

Orr, making a fill-in start at second base, created a first-inning run with his speed. Orr beat out an infield hit, stole second base, beat out a force play at third on Andruw Jones’ infield hit, and scored on Franco’s shallow fly to center for a 1-0 lead.

Chris Snyder led off the third with a double and scored on Craig Counsell’s single to tie it. Tony Clark drove in Snyder with a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 lead.

After singles by Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones, Franco’s three-run homer in the third gave Atlanta a 4-2 lead.

Green’s two-run homer in the fourth, his 18th, drove in Troy Glaus to tie the score 4-all.

Furcal led off the fifth with a triple into the right-field corner. Orr followed with an RBI groundout for a 5-4 lead.

Arizona again pulled even in the fifth when Green hit a two-out single and scored when Andruw Jones dropped Quinton McCracken’s fly ball a step in front of the center-field wall for a two-base error. The error was only the second of the season for Jones, who has won seven straight Gold Gloves.

Arizona’s Brandon Lyon, activated from the disabled list Saturday, gave up a run-scoring double to Brian McCann and an RBI single to Furcal in the eighth.


Green’s two-run homer in the fourth inning gave him 299 for his career. … Furcal’s fifth-inning triple was his 10th, matching his career high. He ranks second in the NL.

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