Francoeur's walk-off grand slam lifts Braves past Nats in stunner

ATLANTA (AP) -- Jeff Francoeur thrust his right arm toward the
sky, sprinted around the bases much faster than he needed to and
leaped into the arms of his teammates, who turned home plate into a
mosh pit.

What a way to celebrate his first career grand slam.

Francoeur homered with two outs in the bottom of the ninth
inning, finishing off a five-run rally that gave the Atlanta Braves
a stunning 8-5 victory over the Washington Nationals on Saturday

"I love those situations," said Francoeur, who brings a
football mentality to the baseball field. "If you don't love 'em,
you're in the wrong sport. It's games like this that keep bringing
you back."

Francoeur doesn't even mind failing.

Last month, he came up in the ninth against San Diego with two
outs, two runners on and the Braves trailing 4-3. Trevor Hoffman
struck out Francoeur to end the game, but the 22-year-old
outfielder savored his chance and looked forward to the next one.

When Chad Cordero hung a slider on a 1-0 pitch, Francoeur drove
it deep into the left-field seats.

"It's just you against him, you against the closer," he said.
"It's a chance to be on the greatest stage. Sometimes you do it,
sometimes you don't. But it's the greatest feeling."

Trailing 5-3 heading to their final at-bat, the Braves quickly
rallied against Cordero (1-1). He gave up three hits on his first
three pitches: a leadoff homer by Brian McCann, followed by sharp
singles from Ryan Langerhans and Marcus Giles.

Edgar Renteria, Atlanta's leading hitter, attempted to bunt the
runners over but got it a little too close to the mound, allowing
Cordero to get a force on Langerhans at third. After Chipper Jones
loaded the bases with an infield single, Cordero still had a chance
to escape the mess when Andruw Jones took a called third streak.

Then came the biggest mistake of all to Francoeur, who had
already extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a run-scoring
double in the first.

"Pitching is getting three outs," Cordero said. "I thought if
I got Andruw, I could get the last out."

Francoeur celebrated wildly after crossing home, actually
butting heads with Chipper Jones but feeling no pain.

Not so for Jones.

"Chipper is mad at me," Francoeur said with a smile. "He said
next time he'll keep his helmet on."

Chris Reitsma (1-1) earned the win with a scoreless ninth. The
Braves won for the fifth time in six games and remained six games
behind the New York Mets in the NL East.

Alfonso Soriano hit two-run homer and Matt LeCroy added a solo
shot for the Nationals, who were on verge of handing Jorge Sosa his
sixth straight loss. Cordero let the Atlanta starter off the hook.

"It was pretty obvious what happened," Cordero said. "I gave
up a couple of hits and a few home runs. I stunk."

Sosa was pretty bad, too. He gave up nine hits and five runs in
5 2-3 innings, his ERA climbing to 6.52 and his record staying at
0-5. A year ago, he was one of baseball's biggest surprises, going
13-3 with a 6.52 ERA.

"Sosa threw a real good ball game and made just a horrible
pitch on Soriano," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He got the
ball elevated. That really changed the game around really

The Braves jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning, but Sosa
couldn't hold the lead. Jose Guillen had a sacrifice fly in the
third, and LeCroy led off the fourth with just his second homer of
the season.

Atlanta went back on top with Todd Pratt's first homer of the
season in the fifth, and Sosa appeared to be in good shape when he
retired the first two hitters in the sixth. But Royce Clayton
doubled to right, and pitcher Mike O'Connor slapped a single to
left for his first career hit and RBI.

Sosa got two quick strikes on Soriano, then left the next pitch
up -- a familiar problem all season. Soriano drove it over the
center field wall for his 11th homer.

That was it for Sosa, who has already given up eight homers in
just 29 innings. A year ago, he surrendered 12 homers in 134

O'Connor was lifted after he gave up a leadoff single to Andruw
Jones in the sixth. Jon Rauch got out of the inning, and Gary
Majewski escaped a major jam in the seventh when Jones flied out
with the bases loaded.

Game notes
Chipper Jones has a 12-game hitting streak. ... Francoeur's
hitting streak equals the longest of his young career. ...
Washington C Brian Schneider went on the disabled list for the
first time in his pro career. He's out for at least 15 days with a
strained left hamstring. ... 1B Robert Fick, who was called up from
an injury rehab assignment at Triple-A New Orleans, arrived at
Turner Field during the game and was in uniform. ... Braves LHP
Horacio Ramirez pitched 4 2-3 innings during a rehab start at Class
A Rome. He gave up five hits, walked one and was charged with two
earned runs. ... Pratt hit his first homer since Aug. 6, 2005, when
he played for Philadelphia. ... The Nationals are assured of losing
the three-game series, which drops them to 1-10 with one split in
their last 12 series against the Braves.