ATLANTA (AP)—Jeff Francoeur’s knack for delivering big hits with two outs made the difference for Atlanta on Saturday night.
Francoeur lined a single up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth, giving the Braves a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Francoeur ranks among the NL leaders with 27 two-out RBIs this season and 80 since the start of the 2006 season.
“He does it a lot, always with two outs,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox.
This time, Francoeur was ready to take one for the team to drive in the winning run. He said he inched up on the plate against Pirates reliever Shawn Chacon.
“I got up over the plate a little bit just in case it came in too close and hit me,” Francoeur said.
Instead, Francoeur almost hit Chacon with his sharp grounder up the middle. The sinker was a little in but Francoeur couldn’t resist swinging.
“I was able to put good wood on it,” Francoeur said.
Willie Harris led off the ninth with an infield single that bounced off Chacon’s foot, and Harris moved to second on Yunel Escobar’s sacrifice. Edgar Renteria popped out before Chacon (4-2) issued an intentional walk to Chipper Jones.
The runners advanced to second and third on Chacon’s wild pitch to Andruw Jones, who then walked on a 3-2 pitch.
“(Chacon) got through the heart of that order and was a strike away,” said Pirates manager Jim Tracy, referring to Andruw Jones’ at-bat. “But Andruw is not going to go easy. He put up a very tough at-bat.”
Andruw Jones hit a two-run homer in the first.
Bob Wickman (2-2) worked a scoreless ninth for the victory.
The Braves remained 1 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.
Ryan Doumit had a pinch-hit, three-run homer off Rafael Soriano in the seventh inning to cap Pittsburgh’s comeback from a 4-0 deficit. Soriano relieved Tyler Yates, who gave up two hits and a walk and was charged with three runs in the inning.
“We did a great job of getting back in the game,” Tracy said. “We had our backs to the wall all night. We had to play catch-up. We had a great at-bat off the bench to get us back in the game.”
The game was delayed by rain for 1 hour, 12 minutes in the bottom of the seventh. The Braves loaded the bases with one out in the eighth but couldn’t score.
Atlanta left-hander Chuck James threw six scoreless innings and left with a 4-0 lead, but the Pirates rallied against Yates and Soriano in the seventh.
Soriano replaced Yates and immediately gave up Doumit’s homer to center.
“We made a great game into a tight one,” Cox said.
James gave up two hits and three walks with four strikeouts but was denied his ninth win.
“The good thing is we came out and won,” James said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s gonna happen. There’s gonna be days I’m gonna give up five runs. That’s just the way baseball is.”
The Braves took a 3-0 lead in the first inning for the second straight game. Escobar and Renteria reached on singles off Tom Gorzelanny. Escobar scored from third on a wild pitch by Gorzelanny that was too high for catcher Ronny Paulino to reach.
Andruw Jones followed with a two-run homer, his 17th.
Doumit’s pinch-hit homer was the second of his career. The first came on May 18 against Arizona. … Pirates 3B Jose Bautista cut his left hand as he slid hands first into third base and was caught stealing in the second inning. Castillo replaced Bautista, who is day to day. … Pirates CF Rajai Davis was caught stealing in the second inning, the first time he’s been thrown out in six tries.