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Updated: Sunday, April 11, 2004 12:23 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
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ATLANTA 5, CHICAGO CUBS 2
 

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Julio Franco just gets better with age.

After staying alive by fouling off seven pitches in a 13-pitch at-bat, the veteran first baseman lined a three-run double off the right field wall to highlight a four-run eighth inning as the Atlanta Braves posted a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs .

A night after beating the Braves, 2-1, in a 15-inning affair, the Cubs took a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning. Starter Sergio Mitre retired the first two batters before yielding a single to Marcus Giles . Cubs manager Dusty Baker then turned to former Brave Andy Pratt (0-1) who walked Chipper Jones on four pitches and J.D. Drew on five pitches to load the bases.

"I had to come in and throw strikes and I didn't do my job," said Pratt, who was traded by Atlanta to the Cubs for pitcher Juan Cruz last month. "I just didn't focus pitch by pitch."

Pratt was pulled in favor of Kyle Farnsworth , who walked Andruw Jones to force in the tying run.

The 45-year-old Franco then stepped in and quickly fell behind two strikes. But he fouled off five straight pitches before getting the count even at 2-2. Franco then fouled off two more pitches before Farnsworth went to a full count.

"On three or four of them, I was lucky to stay alive," Franco said.

On the 13th pitch of the at-bat, Franco hit a fastball to the opposite field and off the wall, scoring Chipper Jones , Drew and Andruw Jones .

"It's got to be number one," said Franco when asked to rank this at-bat to the 7,959 others he had in his major league career. "Bases loaded, eighth inning, and you have a guy who's bringing the fastball 90-plus. That's amazing."

Even Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa marveled at his fellow countryman from the Dominican Republic.

"That last at-bat, everybody was pumped," said Sosa, who Franco took under his wing during his rookie year in Texas in 1989. "He hit a tough pitcher too. It doesn't matter what age you are, if you can hit, you can hit."

Antonio Alfonseca (1-0) picked up the win after recording two outs in the eighth inning. Kevin Gryboski worked a scoreless ninth for his first career save.

Mitre allowed just one run and four hits in seven innings before running into trouble in the eighth.

The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on back-to-back singles by Giles and Chipper Jones , a groundout and a wild pitch.

Atlanta's Jaret Wright made his first start since 2002 and allowed two runs and three hits in six innings.

"It's been awhile, it definitely felt different," Wright said. "The solo home run and the sacrifice fly - you give up two runs in six innings like that, I'll definitely take it.

Todd Hollandsworth hit the solo home run in the fifth inning to tie the game, 1-1. In the sixth, Todd Walker walked and Sosa doubled before Derrek Lee delivered a sacrifice fly for the Cubs, who have scored a total of seven runs in their last four games.


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