ATLANTA (AP)—The Braves went much of the night without a hit.
They still got to celebrate.
Jeff Francoeur(notes) tied the game with a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth and Chipper Jones(notes) won it with a 12th-inning single, leading the Atlanta Braves from five runs down to an improbable 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
“These are character-builders,” Jones said. “We were dead in the water.”
Instead, it’s the Cubs who are flailing. They slipped back to .500 with their 11th loss in 15 games and wasted a brilliant performance by Randy Wells(notes). The rookie didn’t allow a hit until Jones singled with two outs in the seventh, but the bullpen failed to bring home his first big league win.
“That’s baseball,” Wells said. “Stuff will happen. You can’t sulk.”
They couldn’t hold it.
The Braves scored five runs on just two hits to send it to extra innings. Both were big ones: Garrett Anderson’s leadoff homer in the eighth and Francoeur’s drive into the left-field seats off closer Kevin Gregg(notes) with the Cubs one out from the win.
“The longer and longer you go with a guy having a no-no against you, the tighter the grip goes around the bat,” Jones said. “Once we got the hit out of the way, we started pecking away and we got a couple breaks.”
Filling in for suspended Carlos Zambrano(notes), Wells certainly pitched well enough to finally break through. He faced the minimum—the only baserunner was erased on a double play—until Jones’ clean single to left over the glove of third baseman Mike Fontenot(notes).
But the biggest blow belonged to the struggling Francoeur, a former phenom now being mentioned in trade reports. He drove a 2-1 pitch into the seats in left-center for just his fourth homer of the season.
“I worked for about two hours on the off day (Monday), hitting, trying to shorten my swing a little bit,” said Francoeur, who got a helmet-pounding reception from his teammates in the dugout. “It paid off.”
He got to bat even though Gregg had retired two hitters and Anderson whiffed on a pitch in the dirt. When the ball got by catcher Geovany Soto(notes) for a wild pitch, rolling all the way to the backstop, Anderson raced to first.
Anderson started the comeback with his second homer in as many games, after failing to go deep in his first 31 games for Atlanta. The Braves scored twice more in the inning without a hit.
Lee dropped a routine throw to first that allowed Martin Prado(notes) to reach. That was it for Wells, who allowed two hits in seven-plus innings. Carlos Marmol(notes) took over and walked Francoeur, hit Greg Norton(notes) and walked Kelly Johnson(notes) to force in a run. Escobar followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3.
“With a five-run lead in the eighth inning, it shouldn’t get away,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “We gave that one to them, with a nice little ribbon.”
Soriano led off with a homer for the 54th time in his career. Soriano broke a tie with Craig Biggio(notes) in that category and now trails only Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who had 81 leadoff homers.
Wells, who had started four games since being recalled from the minors in early May, wasn’t even supposed to go in the opener of a three-game series in Atlanta. It was Zambrano’s spot, but he’s serving a six-game suspension for his tirade over a disputed call in his last start against Pittsburgh.
Not that Wells was a bad option with a 1.80 ERA through the first four starts of his career. A lack of support—the Cubs managed only six runs in those games—left him without a win.
This time, the bullpen couldn’t hold it.
Cubs RHP Rich Harden(notes), on the DL with an ailing back, threw a side session beforehand and is scheduled to throw another Thursday. … RHP Ryan Dempster(notes), who left his last start with the Cubs because of a blister, threw on the side and should be ready to go Friday at Cincinnati. … Anderson has a 10-game hitting streak. … Chicago OF Milton Bradley(notes) left in the fourth after straining his right calf running out a grounder. He is day to day.