Braves 2, Brewers 1
ATLANTA (AP)—Jeff Francoeur loves to be at the plate with runners on late in the game. Add a struggling reliever to the mix, and the Braves’ slugger is tough to get out.
Francoeur leads the Braves with 10 game-winning RBIs. Adding to his knack for dramatic production in clutch situations, he has five game-winning hits in the final at-bat.
“He’s got the flair,” Smoltz said of Francoeur. “He wants so bad to be in that situation that I think sometimes he tries too hard. You want a guy to be like that in that situation. You’d be surprised how many guys treat that situation totally different.”
Francoeur said he wanted to atone for failing to deliver in similar situations as the Braves lost two of three in Cincinnati a week ago.
“I love it,” Francoeur said of facing the pressure in the bottom of the ninth.
“I thought when I got up, here’s a chance to atone a little bit for Cincinnati for the team and for John, for Bobby (Cox). We’ve been playing hard.”
Turnbow, meanwhile, has lost his job as the Brewers’ closer and now may be removed from any tight situations. He is 0-5 with one save and four blown ones in his last 15 appearances.
Overall, Turnbow is 4-8 with a 6.40 ERA. Manager Ned Yost said he will have to remove the hard-throwing right-hander from situations such as the ninth inning Friday night.
“Yeah, we’re going to have to,” Yost said. “Right now you can tell his tempo is real slow. He’s thinking way too much.”
Yost delivered the same message to Turnbow after the game.
“It’s awful. I’m tired of costing this team victories and every time this team is on a roll, stopping it,” Turnbow said. “It’s just frustrating. … I just wish I could get the job done.”
Marcus Giles drew a leadoff walk from Turnbow and Andruw Jones walked with one out. Francoeur followed with a drive to the wall in right-center field to drive in Giles, who almost made for a close play at the plate by jogging from second.
Jones earlier hit his 29th home run.
“It wasn’t the double that killed him,” Yost said of Turnbow. “It was the walks before.”
Smoltz (10-5) won his sixth straight decision and pitched his 53rd complete game. He struck out eight, walked none and retired 18 straight batters after giving up a leadoff single to Gabe Gross in the second inning.
The Braves began the night six games back in the wild-card chase, but Smoltz said he is treating each start like a playoff game.
“I’m going to keep pitching like that until they say you’ve been officially eliminated from the playoffs,” he said.
Smoltz reached double figures in wins for the 12th time and has not lost since June 13.
“His slider was nasty,” Brewers starter Chris Capuano said. “It just disappears. You can’t see it.”
At 24-30, the Braves have the fewest home wins in the majors. Smoltz can’t be blamed for that stat, though—he is 6-3 in 11 games at Turner Field this season.
Gross started in right field after Yost announced before the game that he had benched slumping veteran Geoff Jenkins. Yost said he will give more playing time to Gross and Corey Hart the rest of the season.
The Braves led 1-0 when Bill Hall led off the Brewers’ eighth with a double. David Bell singled and one out later, Jenkins delivered a pinch-hit sacrifice fly that almost cleared the fence in right field. Jenkins was hitting for Capuano.
Capuano pitched seven innings, throwing only 68 pitches. He gave up four hits and one run with no walks and four strikeouts.
Capuano’s only mistake was a first-pitch, leadoff homer to Jones in the second inning.
Braves SS Edgar Renteria made a diving stop of a sharp grounder and while still on one knee threw out Damian Miller in the fifth inning. … Tony Pena replaced Willy Aybar at third base for Atlanta at the start of the sixth inning. Aybar left with a sore left hand. … Smoltz worked RHP Matt Wise for a 10-pitch walk with two outs in the eighth inning.