SAN DIEGO (AP)—Jeff Francoeur has felt comfortable ever since his brief trip to the minors.
Francoeur came through with a tiebreaking broken bat single with the bases loaded in the sixth inning to help the Atlanta Braves beat the San Diego Padres 4-1 Saturday night and extend Greg Maddux’s winless skid to 12 starts.
Francoeur, who was sent down to Double-A Mississippi on July 4th and recalled July 7, singled just out of the reach of diving shortstop Khalil Greene, and Jones and Teixeira scored.
“I’ve felt very relaxed these last four games I’ve been up here,” said Francoeur. “I’ve had a lot of fun. It’s a lot more fun when you do stuff like that. If I have a few more games like that, things will start to turn around.”
Francoeur was hitting .198 with runners in scoring position before being sent down and was 2-for-20 with the bases loaded before his clutch hit.
“It felt good,” Francoeur said. “I know how bad I’ve struggled with the bases loaded this year. To be able to come up and get a nice knock and then come back and do that … The way our pitching pitched tonight, I knew it was pretty much game over after that.
Maddux (3-8), who won his 350th game on May 10, is one start short of his longest winless drought, which was a 13-start stretch from May 11-July 14, 1990, with the Chicago Cubs. He is 0-5 with seven no decisions during his current winless streak with an ERA of 4.11.
Maddux, who became the oldest pitcher to ever steal a base in the third inning, allowed just three hits over the first five innings and retired the first two batters in the sixth. But Chipper Jones lined his second single of the night to left and Mark Teixeira singled to center before Brian McCann drew his second of three walks from Maddux loading he bases.
“It was a good pitch,” said Maddux of his pitch to Francoeur on an 0-and-1 count. “Chipper hit a good pitch, Tex hit a good pitch. I pitched around McCann and Francoeur got it”
Maddux pitched seven innings allowing six hits, three earned runs. He walked two, struck out three and hit a batter,
Rookie Charlie Morton (2-2), picked up the victory for the Braves pitching 5 1-3 innings and allowing four hits and a run.
Will Ohman finished the sixth and Blaine Boyer pitched two hitless innings before Mike Gonzalez picked up his third save in three opportunities this season and his 33rd straight save over parts of five seasons.
“Maddux was the same old Maddux,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox. “He can carve you up as good as anybody in baseball. This West coast swing, with Arizona, Los Angeles, San Diego—and we haven’t even seen the Giants yet—you face a real outstanding pitcher every night. There’s not an easy mark on any team on the entire West coast.”
While Maddux didn’t get the victory, he did make history as he stole his first base of the season in the third. In doing so he became the oldest pitcher in big league history to steal a base at 42 years and 89 days. Jim Kaat had the previous mark. It was Maddux’s 11th stolen base of his career.
“They weren’t holding me on,” said Maddux. “I was trying to make something happen. We haven’t been scoring runs. If I get thrown out there anyway what’s the big deal, we have our leadoff guy up next inning.”
Lillibridge, a 24-year-old rookie, hit his first major league home run in the top of the ninth off reliever Joe Thatcher.
The Padres honored members of the 1998 National League championship team prior to the game. Among the players returning for the ceremonies included former Padres Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Kevin Brown, Greg Vaughn, Carlos Hernandez, Sterling Hitchcock, Steve Finley, Dave Stewart, and Merv Rettenmund and current uniformed Padres closer Trevor Hoffman and batting coach Wally Joyner. The Padres beat the Braves, 4 games to 2 in the NLCS before losing to the Yankees in the 1998 World Series.