ATLANTA (AP) -- Take that, 40-year-olds.
Until Gonzalez seized the spotlight, it had been a good series
for baseball's version of the geriatric set.
On Tuesday, Arizona's Randy Johnson became the oldest pitcher in
major league history to throw a perfect game at age 40.
One night later, 45-year-old Julio Franco broke his own record
for oldest player to hit a pinch-hit homer, capping Atlanta's
four-run rally in the eighth.
But Gonzalez, a mere 36, came through in the 11th off Armando
Almanza (0-1). Steve Finley followed with another solo shot.
"Having a 4-0 lead and losing that, then coming back to win,
that was big for us," Gonzalez said. "Our main concern is to get
some wins and get back in this race."
The Braves, who had gone 18 innings without a run, finally
erupted in the eighth. Franco tied it with a two-out, two-run
homer, eclipsing the record he set as a pinch-hitter two weeks ago
against San Diego.
"The home run was important in the eighth inning," said
Franco, the oldest player in the majors. "Not anymore. I came here
to win the ballgame. Anything short of that, it doesn't matter."
Gonzalez hit a long two-run homer in the sixth, giving the
Diamondbacks a seemingly comfortable lead. Brandon Webb pitched
seven scoreless innings, but his bullpen couldn't hold it.
No worries. Gonzo came through again in the 11th with another
drive into the right-field seats, breaking the 4-4 tie. It was the
20th multihomer game of his career and the third this season.
Almanza thought he had struck out Gonzalez on an 0-2 pitch, but
umpire Bruce Dreckman called it a ball. Two pitches later, the
left-hander hung a slider.
"He got the call," Almanza said. "Then he came back and got
Finley also homered on a slider that got too much of the plate.
"That's my out pitch for lefties," Almanza said. "I just
threw it over the plate and paid for it."
Brian Bruney (2-0) earned the win with two scoreless innings.
Arizona called in Jose Valverde, who tried to sneak a high
fastball past Franco. But he went the opposite way, hitting the
ball just inside the foul pole down the right-field line to tie the
game at 4.
"I'm not trying to hit a home run," Franco said. "I knew he
threw hard. I didn't want to overswing. He threw a pitch up and
away, and I got lucky."
After Franco rounded the bases, the Diamondbacks protested that
he had too much pine tar on his bat. The umpires removed it from
the game, but the homer stood.
"(Arizona's Bob) Brenly is a great manager, but what's he going
to accomplish by that?" Franco asked. "You've got to come out
before I bat, not after I've hit a homer. All they could do was
tell me not to use the bat. Big deal."
Atlanta had 10 hits after failing to even reach first against
Johnson. The Big Unit retired all 27 batters for the 17th perfect
game in major league history.
Brenly didn't mind the way the Diamondbacks followed up.
"It was perfect enough," he said. "It was a win. Webb pitched
a heck of a ballgame. The offense did just enough."
The Braves didn't waste much time picking up their first hit off
Webb. The second batter, Adam LaRoche, singled to left.
But he was stranded, as were eight other runners through the
first seven innings. Atlanta was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring
position against Webb, who allowed six hits and walked three.
Atlanta starter John Thomson breezed through four innings,
facing only one batter above the minimum while benefiting from two
But Arizona got to Thomson in the fifth. Finley led off with a
single, moved to third on Danny Bautista's hit and scored when Alex
Cintron grounded out.
Thomson looked to be in good shape when Brent Mayne also
grounded out. But Webb bounced an RBI single to left, putting the
Diamondbacks ahead 2-0.
Matt Kata started the sixth with a single, and Gonzalez followed
with a 423-foot drive into the right-field seats. Thomson didn't
even look up and right fielder J.D. Drew barely moved as the ball
soared into the stands.
The Braves dropped to 17-21 with their third straight loss
-- the latest in the season they've been four games under .500 since
1992. ... Mayne, the Arizona catcher, was struck on the left elbow
by Jesse Garcia's backswing in the seventh. X-rays were negative.
... Webb has allowed just one run in 14 career innings against the