Francisco’s 11th-inning Hit Lifts Braves Past Dodgers
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By David O’Brien
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA — For seven innings Friday night, it looked as if the Braves’ Friday good fortunes and Chipper Jones’ hot bat wouldn’t be enough to offset the left arm of Dodgers pitcher Chris Capuano.
But the bottom of the batting order started a two-out rally in the eighth inning rally to tie, and the Braves pulled out a 4-3 win on Juan Francisco’s two-out single in the 11th inning.
David Ross and Paul Janish had consecutive two-out singles off reliever Brandon League before Francisco lashed an opposite-field hit to left off Jamey Wright, sending a charge through a chopping and chanting crowd of 33,093 and starting a celebration on the field as teammates raced from the dugout to mob Francisco after he’d rounded first base.
Jason Heyward’s two-out single in the eighth drove in the tying run for the Braves, who collected their 18th win in 23 games and improved their stunning Friday record to 17-2. They are 6-1 in extra-inning games.
The Braves had a prime opportunity to finish it in the 10th, after Michael Bourn singled with one out, stole second and went to third on catcher Matt Treanor’s throwing error. But Martin Prado struck out, and after Jason Heyward walked, Jones flied out to end the inning.
Many in the crowd had naturally expected more magic at that moment from Jones, who second-inning homer was his third in two nights.
Andre Ethier’s towering two-run homer off Tommy Hanson in the sixth inning gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead, and they added a run in the seventh on a pair of doubles including a two-out hit by Shane Victorino.
Jones led off the second inning with his 467th career homer, but the Braves managed only four other hits (all singles) against Capuano, who was charged with three runs — two after he left the game — and one walk with eight strikeouts. He got no decision and has a 1.81 ERA in his past nine starts against the Braves.
The Braves’ offense awakened in the eighth, beginning with singles by Janish and pinch-hitter Reed Johnson to start the inning. They had two in scoring position after Bourn’s sacrifice bunt off Capuano, and Prado got one runner in with a groundout to second base against reliever Ronald Belisario to cut the lead to 3-2.
Next up was Heyward, who was 6-for-63 with 23 strikeouts in his career against the Dodgers before coming through with his tying single to left-center. David Ross may also have had an unsung role in the rally, as his 10-pitch strikeout to end the seventh inning appeared to take something out of Capuano.
Hanson started strong before getting knocked around late in his 6-2/3-inning outing. It was his first start since July 30, after a stint on the 15-day disabled list for a strained back. Hanson was charged with seven hits, three runs and two walks.
It was the beginning of what amounts to a two-week pitching competition for Hanson and other Braves starters, as the team is temporarily going with a six-man starting rotation with the intention of scaling it back to five at the end of the month.
Hanson didn’t allow a hit until Hanley Ramirez’s two-out double in the fourth inning, and Ethier was out trying to score from first base on the play when left fielder Prado and relay man Janish both made strong throws.
The Dodgers started the fifth with consecutive singles by James Loney and Luis Cruz, but Hanson worked out of that tight spot with a groundout, a line-out and a Victorino strikeout with two in scoring position.
There would be no escape for Hanson in the next inning. Mark Ellis led off the sixth with a double that skipped off Jones’ glove. One out later, Ethier connected with Hanson’s first-pitch slider and launched it high and long, the ball landing about 15 rows backin the right-field bleachers.
Before Friday, Hanson was 7-1 in 11 starts since the beginning of June, despite a 4.71 ERA with 12 homers and 28 walks allowed in 65 innings. He had benefited from an average of more than six support runs per nine innings pitched in that period, and the Braves scored five or more runs while he was in the game in seven of those 11 starts.
Braves hitters found the going a lot tougher for most of the night against Capuano, although they eventually found a crack with the hits by Janish and newcomer Johnson, who has been just the bench contributor the Braves hoped he’d be when they got him from the Cubs in the same July 30 deal that brought starting pitcher Paul Maholm to Atlanta.
©2012 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)
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