Diamondbacks 4, Braves 2, 1st game; Diamondbacks 13, Braves 9, 2nd game

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ATLANTA (AP)—Before Saturday, Damion Easley was averaging a home run per month as a utility infielder for Arizona.

Given a spot start in the second game of a doubleheader sweep against Atlanta, Easley changed that ratio, hitting three homers and driving in seven runs—both career highs—to lead the Diamondbacks to a 13-9 second-game victory Saturday night.

“He was something, wasn’t he?” asked Arizona manager Bob Melvin, who said that each homer felt like the key hit of the game at the time. “Every one of them, it puts us over the top, and (the Braves) keep on battling back.”

Easley began the second game with two home runs in 70 at-bats this season. He hit two-run homers in the fifth and seventh innings for the NL West-leading Diamondbacks, who have won three straight and 13 of 18. With Arizona clinging to a 10-9 lead, Easley added a three-run drive off Kenny Ray in the ninth.

“Everything was clicking,” Easley said. “The timing was good. I had pitches I could handle and I didn’t miss them.”

Eric Byrnes’ 10th homer finished off Arizona’s five-run fourth inning and made it 6-0. The Diamondbacks led 8-0 after five and held on after Atlanta scored seven runs in the seventh to pull within one.

A rainout Friday night forced the split doubleheader. In the first game, Enrique Gonzales earned his first victory and Chad Tracy and Orlando Hudson homered in Arizona’s 4-2 win.

Hudson and Craig Counsell committed errors in the seventh inning of the nightcap as Atlanta nearly made up a 10-2 deficit in one inning. Brandon Medders gave up five hits and six runs, only one earned, in the inning.

After Adam LaRoche drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double off Medders to right-center, Marcus Giles hit a two-run homer off Terry Mulholland to cut the lead to 10-9. Mulholland was recalled from Triple-A Tucson after the first game of the doubleheader.

“They know how to win,” said Easley of the Braves. “They know what they’re doing. They don’t panic. I expected them to make a run.”

Arizona closer Jose Valverde recorded the final two outs in the seventh and stranded two runners in the eighth. Jorge Julio pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

“It wasn’t enough. But it was good to see the guys fight back,” LaRoche said.

“We’re battling. We’re not giving up. We know it’s going to turn around. We’re just kind of waiting it out. From the outside watching I know it’s probably frustrating and it doesn’t look good, but it’s gonna turn.”

The Braves are 1-5 on their 10-game homestand, including losses in the first three games of the four-game series against the Diamondbacks.

Braves starter John Thomson (2-5) gave up 11 hits and eight runs in 4 1-3 innings.

Easley’s first homer increased the lead to 8-0 and knocked Thomson out of the game. The homer to left drove in Conor Jackson, who walked.

Wilson Betemit’s fifth homer, a two-run shot into the Braves’ bullpen in the sixth inning, ended the shutout bid by Claudio Vargas (6-2). The right-hander gave up two hits through five innings before giving up four hits in the sixth, knocking him out of the game.

Ryan Langerhans loaded the bases with an infield hit against Medders, but Jeff Francoeur’s liner to center ended the sixth.

Easley added another two-run homer off Oscar Villarreal in the seventh before the Braves’ seven-run outburst in the bottom half.

Gonzalez was optioned back to the minors after the first game for what could be a short stay.

“He’s going to be a good pitcher for a long time,” teammate Shawn Green said. “He’s not afraid to challenge guys. He’s very poised for a guy who just came up.”

Tracy broke a 2-all tie by hitting the first pitch of the sixth inning off the right-field foul pole for his 10th homer. Green also had an RBI single off John Smoltz (4-3) in the sixth to make it 4-2.

Gonzalez (1-0) allowed two runs, four hits and one walk in six innings in his second major league start. He struck out eight.

“They need me because I throw a good ball,” Gonzalez said. “They tell me to pitch good and come back.”

The right-hander had a no-decision in his first start despite giving up just one run in six innings against the Cincinnati Reds.

“He’s certainly proven he can pitch here,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “For an organization that’s position-player rich, he’s going to be a cog in this rotation for a long time.”

Julio pitched a perfect ninth for his third save in three chances.

Smoltz allowed four runs and eight hits in seven innings for Atlanta. The right-hander struck out 10 and didn’t walk a batter, but trailed 2-0 after Luis Gonzalez’s RBI double in the first and Hudson’s second homer, a solo shot, in the second.

Giles’ two-run single tied it at 2 with two outs in the second.

“We should have put some runs up,” said Francoeur, who went 1-for-4 for Atlanta. “We lost it today hitting. We’re scoring runs, but we’re not scoring enough. We’re scoring when we’re behind, we’re not scoring to put us ahead early and give us some confidence. That’s hurting.”


Braves manager Bobby Cox was ejected for the fifth time this season when home plate umpire Dana DeMuth tossed him for arguing balls and strikes during Chipper Jones’ first-inning at-bat in the first game. … According to the Braves, Cox has 121 career ejections to rank third on baseball’s career list. … Counsell stayed in the second game after Edgar Renteria’s grounder hit the shortstop in the face in the sixth inning. … Brian Jordan snapped an 0-for-22 slump with a seventh-inning single in the second game.

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