Andruw Jones, Francoeur drive in 3 runs apiece in Atlanta’s 11-6 win over Florida
ATLANTA (AP)—John Smoltz must have been taken aback. When he walked to the mound for the sixth inning, the Braves already has put 10 runs on the scoreboard.
Getting some rare run support, Smoltz pitched six strong innings and Atlanta overpowered the mistake-prone Florida Marlins 11-6 on Monday night.
“Usually when he’s gotten a win, it’s been like 3-2,” Francoeur said of his 40-year-old teammate. “To get some runs for him like that is nice.”
The Braves scored just eight runs in Smoltz’s seven losses, and they’ve been held to three runs or less in 14 of his 30 starts.
Give Smoltz a few more runs, manager Bobby Cox said, and he’d “have 21 or 22 wins by now.”
For that reason, Smoltz called this the best year of his career—even better than a 24-win season in 1996 that earned him the NL Cy Young Award. He reported for spring training shortly after going through a painful divorce, and he’s had to pitch around spotty offensive support and a shaky bullpen.
“A lot of things happened on and off the field. A lot of things haven’t gone right,” Smoltz said. “But I don’t remember a year where I’ve had this many starts where we at least had a chance to win.”
Jones connected in the fifth for his 25th homer, a towering drive that capped a five-run inning and gave the Braves a 10-1 cushion.
Francoeur had a run-scoring single in the third and a two-run double in the fifth—just before Jones’ homer—that gave the 23-year-old outfielder an even 100 RBIs. He drove in 103 last year, his first full season in the big leagues.
“That’s a goal that most players like to achieve,” Francoeur said. “I’ve got to thank the guys hitting in front of me. Those guys get on base all the time. They’re doing a lot of the work for me.”
Smoltz was lifted after the sixth with the Braves comfortably ahead. He gave up four hits and his only run on Cody Ross’ homer in the second, which briefly tied it at 1.
The Braves, still clinging to the faint hope of making the playoffs, remained 5 1/2 games behind San Diego for the wild card and moved within 6 1/2 games of NL East-leading New York. Atlanta has 12 games remaining.
“Until somebody says you’re finished, you’ve got to go at it the best way you know how,” Smoltz said. “We haven’t been on a winning streak in a while. We’ve somehow got to do that.”
Florida turned in a performance befitting a last-place team. Alfredo Amezaga misplayed two fly balls in center field, letting one bounce off his glove for a two-base error and totally losing another against the dark sky, giving Kelly Johnson a gift double.
“I lost it on the way down,” Amezaga said, “and on the way up, too.”
Byung-Hyun Kim (9-7) gave up a career-worst nine runs, allowing nine hits and hitting three batters in four-plus innings.
“It was a bad night,” he said.
Plus, they had to contend with Smoltz.
“He was pitching us a little different. He was throwing off-speed stuff more,” Mike Jacobs said. “Smoltz is Smoltz. He knows how to pitch. He’s not going to give in.”
The Braves also had a couple of runners tagged out. Andruw Jones got caught between third and home on a failed suicide squeeze, and Francoeur was thrown out at third trying to move up on Brandon Jones’ sacrifice fly.
Jones, who was called up Sunday, still picked up his first career RBI.
In keeping with the Jones theme, the third of Atlanta’s starters with that name, Chipper, had a pair of RBIs before he left the game.
Braves 1B Mark Teixeira had a painful night; he was hit twice with pitches by Kim. … Forty-nine-year-old Julio Franco got a standing ovation when he came up as a pinch hitter in the eighth. He had the fans cheering again when he blooped an RBI single to right. … Dan Uggla was hit in the back with a pitch from Braves reliever Rafael Soriano in the ninth, leading the umps to warn both teams. Uggla said the errant pitch was either payback for the three batters that Kim hit, or for the homer Uggla hit off Soriano in their last meeting. “It was definitely intentional,” Uggla said. “I was lucky it didn’t hit me in the head.”