Braves 5, Padres 4

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ATLANTA (AP)—Jeff Francoeur is starting to resemble last season’s rookie sensation.

Francoeur homered for the second night in a row, hitting a two-out shot in the eighth inning that gave the Atlanta Braves a 5-4 win over the San Diego Padres on Friday.

After starting the season with only two hits in 36 at-bats, Francoeur actually heard boos from the hometown fans who idolized him a year ago when he finished third in the NL rookie of the year voting after getting called up to the big leagues at midseason.

Now, he’s on a 7-for-9 roll that has lifted his batting average to .200.

“It’s good to be back over the Mendoza Line, or at least right at it,” Francoeur quipped. “Hopefully I can keep going from here.”

Francoeur had three hits against the Padres, including a liner off Scott Linebrink (0-1) that barely cleared the left-field wall. Ahead in the count 3-1, he sat on a fastball from the hard-throwing right-hander.

“I felt like that was the hardest ball I’ve ever hit,” Francoeur said. “Maybe it’s because I haven’t been hitting, but it sure felt like it.”

Linebrink concurred.

“He murdered it,” the pitcher said. “He’s looking for one pitch and he got it.”

Francoeur homered after Braves manager Bobby Cox was tossed from the game for arguing a call at first base. The previous hitter, Adam LaRoche, appeared to beat a throw from catcher Mike Piazza, who dropped the ball on a third strike and had trouble getting a handle in front of the plate.

LaRoche threw back his head in disgust and Cox stormed from the dugout, quickly getting ejected for the second time this year by umpire Brian O’Nora. The Braves have won both games after their manager was thrown out.

“I hope he keeps doing it,” Francoeur said. “Bobby always fires ‘em up. When he gets going, the fans get going.”

Oscar Villareal (4-0) became the first four-game winner in the majors with a scoreless eighth. Chris Reitsma worked around two hits in the ninth to earn his fourth save, retiring Terrmel Sledge on a grounder for the final out with runners at second and third.

Tim Hudson got off to another rough start for the Braves, giving up a run-scoring double to Brian Giles in the first. But he finally made it beyond four innings for the first time this season, coming out with two outs in the seventh in a 4-4 game.

The Padres tried to knock out Hudson in the fourth, scoring three times to erase a 3-1 deficit. Vinny Castilla and Mark Bellhorn hit back-to-back RBI doubles, and Dave Roberts put San Diego ahead with a run-scoring single. Sledge struck out to end the inning.

Atlanta tied it up in the bottom half on Wilson Betemit’s groundout, which scored Francoeur. Brian McCann had the biggest hit of the inning, a double to right after Francoeur led off with a single.

Hudson was awful in his first two starts, giving up 14 hits, 13 runs (11 earned) and six walks for an ERA of 12.38. He was better this time but far from overpowering, giving up nine hits and four runs in 6 2-3 innings.

“Overall, I’m happy with the way I threw the ball,” Hudson said. “This was a lot better. It’s something to build from.”

Edgar Renteria tied it at 1 in the first with a homer into the left-field seats. He’s hit safely in all 11 games this season, his first with the Braves after coming over from Boston in an offseason trade.

Ryan Langerhans put the Braves ahead in the third with his hitting and his baserunning. First, he doubled down the right-field line to drive in a run, taking third on the late throw to the plate. Then, on a wild pitch that bounced about 10 feet away from catcher Mike Piazza, Langerhans took off for home and beat Piazza’s toss to pitcher Chan Ho Park covering.

Langerhans also had a stellar defensive game in left field.

In the fifth, he played the carom perfectly when Adrian Gonzalez lined a one-hopper into the corner, throwing out the runner attempting to stretch it into a double. Two innings later, Langerhans made a leaping, over-the-shoulder catch at the edge of the warning track that took away a hit from Sledge and probably denied the Padres the go-ahead run.

“They’ve got a great outfield and it won the game for them tonight,” San Diego manager Bruce Bochy said. “Shoot, they made a couple great defensive plays that changed the game.”

Park was lifted after five innings. He gave up four runs and seven hits.

Notes

OF Mike Cameron, on the DL with a strained side muscle, took a step toward rejoining San Diego when he took 50 swings off a tee before the game. “We’ve been cautious with him,” Bochy said. “If he feels anything, we’re going to back him off.” … Daniel Tompkins, a 23-year-old Army specialist who served in Iraq, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Tompkins received a Bronze Star for heroism after he saved more than a dozen of his comrades in a roadside bomb that left him wounded in October. He is now back at Georgia’s Fort Stewart.

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