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Francoeur's five RBI help Braves top Mets, end skid

ATLANTA (AP) -- Jeff Francoeur tried everything to break out of
his slump. He cut his hair. He stopped shaving. Finally, he popped
a couple of movies in the DVD player, watching the inspiring final
minutes of both "Gladiator" and "Rudy."

That one worked.

Francoeur homered and had a career-high five RBI Sunday,
leading the Atlanta Braves to an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets
that snapped a five-game losing streak and seemed about as
important as a win can get on the final day of April.

"It's a big win -- no doubt," Francoeur said. "We don't want
to get swept two series in a row, especially by the team that's
ahead in our division. Hopefully this will give us some
confidence."

The Braves lost the first two games in the series, scoring only
two runs, and dropped seven games behind first-place New York in
the NL East -- their largest deficit since being 7½ off the lead on
June 2, 2001.

Coming off three straight losses in Milwaukee last week, Atlanta
was on the verge of its first back-to-back sweeps (in series of at
least three games) since 1985, six years before the team began its
run of 14 straight division titles.

Francoeur made that a moot point, snapping out of a slump that
sent his average back below .200. He singled in each of his first
three at-bats before hitting a mammoth two-run homer in the sixth
that landed halfway up in the left-field seats.

"I've really been down on myself and it was starting to take a
toll on me," he said. "So last night, I decided to watch a couple
of movies. I watched the end of 'Gladiator' and the end of
'Rudy."

Clearly, it had an impact.

"I'm a little superstitious, and sometimes you need something
to get you going," Francoeur said. "If 'Rudy' doesn't do it,
nothing will."

Francoeur went 4-for-5, the four hits equaling his career high
set last August during a brilliant rookie season that he's
struggling to duplicate. The five RBI were two more than his
previous best in a game. He also ended the game with a diving catch
near the right-field line with two runners on.

"He's way too talented to be hitting .180 the whole season,"
teammate Marcus Giles said. "It's just a matter of time before he
gets things going."

Kyle Davies (2-2) became the first Braves starter to win two
games -- and both of them have been against the Mets. This wasn't
nearly as dominating as his three-hit complete game at Shea Stadium
on April 18, but he only had one bad inning before turning it over
to the bullpen.

In the third, after being staked to a 3-0 lead, Davies gave up a
two-run homer to Carlos Beltran and a run-scoring single to Cliff
Floyd. With two runners on, the 22-year-old right-hander escaped
the jam by striking out Ramon Castro.

"I wasn't as sharp as I was in New York," Davies said. "I
left some pitches over the plate that they popped up, and we made
some great defensive plays. But a win's a win."

The Braves went ahead for good in the bottom half of the third
when Francoeur's bloop single to center brought home Andruw Jones,
who led off the inning with a double against Steve Trachsel (2-2).

Trachsel was yanked in the fourth after loading the bases on
three walks. Manager Willie Randolph went with left-hander Darren
Oliver, but the move backfired when the right-handed Francoeur
lined a single to left that brought home two runs, putting Atlanta
ahead 6-3.

Trachsel gave up eight hits and walked five, his ERA jumping
from 3.13 to 4.72.

"It was his first bad outing of the year," Randolph said.
"The bottom line is: He didn't hit his spots."

Francoeur's leadoff single in the second sparked a three-run
inning -- more runs than the Braves scored in the first two games of
the series. Ryan Langerhans had an RBI single and Giles drove in
two more with a liner to right.

Endy Chavez hit his first homer of the season off Lance Cormier
in the sixth, pulling the Mets to 6-4. But Francoeur's 436-foot
homer against Jorge Julio in the bottom half restored a comfortable
lead for the Braves.

Those extra runs came in handy when the Mets threatened in the
eighth, taking advantage of two walks by Oscar Villareal. The
second of those, to Jose Reyes with the bases loaded, prompted the
Braves to call on embattled closer Chris Reitsma.

He bailed out Villareal by getting Kaz Matsui on a lazy fly to
left, then finished off the Mets in the ninth for his fifth save in
six chances.

Even with the loss, the Mets won 16 games in April -- tying their
franchise record for the opening month of the season. And they head
to May with a six-game lead over the Braves.

"It would have been nice to get out of here with a sweep,"
Trachsel said. But "we'll take two out of three every series."

Game notes
The Mets dropped to 22-52 at Turner Field and have never
swept a series at the Braves' home of the last 10 seasons. ...
Sunday's game drew a crowd of 35,245 on an unseasonably cool day,
bringing the total for the series to 127,021 -- an average of more
than 42,000. ... Braves SS Edgar Renteria extended his hitting
streak to 15 games. ... Francoeur is 6-for-8 against Trachsel in
his career.