ATLANTA (AP)—What’s the toughest thing Jeff Francoeur has gone through since being called up to the majors? Probably those beatings he takes in the dugout after every home run.
The Braves’ fabulous rookie homered, tripled and threw out another runner from right field, leading Atlanta past the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 Wednesday night.
The 21-year-old Francoeur has played only 30 games since being called up from the minors last month, but he’s already put up some amazing numbers.
Ten homers, a .373 average and nine outfield assists—the latter only one off the NL lead.
“I can’t say enough about the kid,” manager Bobby Cox said. “It’s fun to watch him play. He’s got winner written all over his face.”
Andruw Jones hit his major league-leading 38th homer and Tim Hudson went eight strong innings for the Braves, who bounced back from the disappointment of losing on a three-run ninth the previous night.
Francoeur followed his first career triple with a two-run homer in the fifth, giving the Braves a 6-0 lead and knocking out Dodgers starter Odalis Perez.
Arriving back at the dugout, Francoeur was met by a mob of teammates, who pounded the helmet of the former high school football star. Marcus Giles started the ritual, everyone else jumped in—and Francoeur loves it.
“Giles always tells me, ‘If you can’t handle the beating, don’t hit a homer,”’ the rookie said, breaking into a big smile. “You’ve got to stay aggressive. I love it. It gets me pumped up. I’ll take a beating any time for a homer.”
Francoeur threw out Perez trying to stretch a single into a double, fielding a carom off the wall, wheeling around and easily getting the slow-running pitcher at second.
About the only thing Francoeur hasn’t done is draw a walk. He’s managed 110 at-bats without getting to ball four.
“I got my first triple,” he said. “I guess the walk is the last thing.”
Another rookie outfielder, Kelly Johnson, had three RBIs for the Braves.
“Those young players act like they’ve been in the big leagues for a long time,” said Perez, who surrendered 11 hits and six runs in four-plus innings. “They play like they belong here.”
Hudson (9-7) gave up seven hits and both Los Angeles runs. He breezed through the first five innings, scattering four hits while the Braves built a 7-0 lead.
“I feel like I’m just now getting in a groove, feeling pretty strong,” Hudson said. “I’ve got just over 100 innings under me right now and I feel like I’m just about getting things going.”
Perez (7-7), who began his career with the Braves, failed to get an out in the fifth, giving up a leadoff homer to Andruw Jones and a single to Julio Franco before Francoeur prompted the pitching change with a mammoth, 417-foot drive into the left-field seats.
“He brings a lot to the table,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy marveled. “He’s a very good defensive player. He has very good power. And his throwing arm is one of the best in the league.”
The Braves jumped ahead right away. Furcal led off with a single, tagged on a flyout to deep center and trotted home on Chipper Jones’ double into the left-field corner.
Francoeur started the second with a drive off the right-field wall on an 0-2 pitch, racing all the way to third while Jayson Werth scrambled to retrieve the ball.
Johnson followed with a run-scoring single and wound up scoring the first of his three runs on Furcal’s single, pushing the Braves to a 3-0 lead.
Atlanta added four more in the fifth to blow it open. After Perez was knocked out, Jonathan Broxton walked three of the next six hitters, including Chipper Jones with the bases loaded.
Andruw Jones, whose homer started the inning, struck out to finally end it.
Hudson’s only slip-up came in the sixth. Jeff Kent had an RBI double to break up the shutout, and Werth singled in a run.
Johnson added a two-run triple in the eighth.
Dodgers RHP Yhency Brazoban, who leads the Dodgers with 21 saves, came on in a mop-up role. He took over in the sixth and worked two scoreless innings with three strikeouts—a marked improvement over his previous appearance. Brazoban gave up four runs without getting an out a week earlier in a loss to the Phillies. … 2B Marcus Giles was the only Braves starter other than Hudson who failed to get a hit. … The Dodgers gave up 16 hits and walked six. … Milwaukee’s Geoff Jenkins and Cliff Floyd of the New York Mets came into the night with 10 outfield assists apiece.