Series: Game 2 of 3

Atlanta leads 2-0 (as of 7/27)

Game 1: Tuesday, July 26
in 10
Game 2: Wednesday, July 27
Game 3: Thursday, July 28

Nationals 3

(55-46, 23-28 away)

Braves 4

(57-44, 31-14 home)

7:05 PM ET, July 27, 2005

Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia 

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W: D. Kolb (3-6)

L: G. Majewski (2-2)

S: C. Reitsma (11)

Braves increase NL East lead to two games

ATLANTA (AP) -- Jeff Francoeur, who turned down a football scholarship at Clemson to play baseball, showed Wednesday night that he knows something about a third sport.

"I think it's just part of being a golfer; I put a spin on the sand wedge," Francoeur said in explaining his eighth-inning, run-scoring bloop double that gave the Atlanta Braves the lead in their 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals.

Francoeur, a former Atlanta-area high school star who was called up from Double-A Mississippi on July 7, had three hits and drove in two runs in his first start against a right-handed pitcher.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said it didn't matter that two of Francoeur's hits were bloopers.

"What he's done, he's put the ball in play, and when you do that you give yourself a chance," Cox said. "That's the name of the game -- put it in play."

Atlanta wasted a 3-1 lead in the eighth, then went ahead in the bottom half against Gary Majewski (2-2).

Chipper Jones singled with two outs and stole second, and Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked. Francoeur blooped a double into shallow center, allowing Jones to score the go-ahead run.

"I was just lucky to hit it in the right place," Francoeur said.

Francoeur also gave the Braves a 2-1 lead with a fourth-inning single.

Dan Kolb (3-6) won despite giving up two key hits in the eighth, and Chris Reitsma finished for his 11th save in 15 chances.

Atlanta, which won the first two games of the three-game series, opened a two-game lead in the NL East, its largest margin since the Braves led by 2½ games after play on May 15.

The Nationals held a team meeting after the game.

Washington is 6-15 since leading the NL East by 5½ games on July 2.

Asked if he is angry and frustrated, Washington manager Frank Robinson said: "A little bit of all of the above. ... We're not playing winning baseball."

Robinson said the meeting "was something I had to do, get it off my chest, and I did it."

Francoeur is hitting .433, and Cox said after the game the rookie will start again Thursday when the Braves face right-hander Ryan Drese.

Francoeur had been sharing time with fellow rookie Ryan Langerhans in right field. Langerhans will move to left field Thursday as Cox rests a third rookie outfielder, Kelly Johnson, who is hitting only .224.

"I'm having a blast," Francoeur said. "I'm looking forward to it. It will be good to get to start two days in a row, especially against a right-hander."

Tim Hudson gave up one run and five hits in seven innings, handing his bullpen a 3-1 lead.

John Foster walked Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro leading off the eighth, prompting Cox to bring in Kolb. Jose Guillen and Nick Johnson hit RBI singles, bringing boos from the crowd of 40,625.

Washington's Esteban Loaiza gave up three runs -- two earned -- and seven hits in six-plus innings.

Wilkerson led off the game with a triple to the right-field corner and scored on Guillen's single. The Nationals loaded the bases before Vinny Castilla grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Marcus Giles hit a solo homer in the fourth, and Andruw Jones followed with a high pop fly that Johnson and Vidro lost in the lights and fell at least 15 feet from the first baseman for an easy double. Francoeur singled through the pitcher's legs with two outs for a 2-1 lead.

"I don't know why they couldn't see it," Robinson said of the pop fly.

Francoeur led off the seventh with a bloop single that shortstop Cristian Guzman appeared to lose in the lights, and Loaiza threw the ball into the outfield on Brian McCann's bunt for an error. With Julio Franco at the plate, reliever Joey Eischen threw a run-scoring wild pitch.

"I think we hit one ball hard all night -- Giles' home run," Chipper Jones said. "Everything else was a blooper."

Game notes

There was a 27-minute rain delay in the top of the third inning. ... Chipper Jones stole his second base of the season in the eighth inning. ... Nick Johnson was 2-for-3 in his second game since being activated from the disabled list.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press