Braves pound Marlins


ATLANTA – No need for a comeback in this one. Jeff Francoeur hit two more homers and Jorge Sosa finally earned a win, leading the Atlanta Braves past Florida 9-1 to complete a four-game sweep of the Marlins.

Chipper Jones, who hit a walk-off three-run homer in the 11th inning the previous night, picked up three more RBIs. His two-run single in the fifth gave the Braves a 5-1 lead, then Francoeur and Matt Diaz put it out reach by homering on consecutive pitches.

Francoeur wasn’t done. He homered again in the seventh, his 10th of the season.

Atlanta rallied to win the first three games of the series, overcoming a five-run deficit on Monday before pulling off nearly identical wins the next two nights. Both times, the Braves tied it up in the ninth, then won in the 11th after Florida went ahead in the top half.

Winning for the ninth time in 11 games, the Braves (21-20) moved above .500 for the first time since April 7, when they were 3-2, and kept the pressure on the first-place New York Mets in NL East.

Sosa (1-5) was one of baseball’s biggest surprises last year, when he went 13-3 with a 2.55 ERA. But he’s been a major disappointment this season, coming into Thursday’s start with a 6.52 ERA and well aware of speculation that he’ll be yanked from the rotation as soon as everyone gets healthy.

The last-place Marlins, who are on pace to go 46-116, were just what Sosa needed to turn things around. He gave up a homer to Reggie Abercrombie on the seventh pitch of the game, but bounced back to go a season-high 6 2-3 innings.

Sosa allowed six hits, struck out eight and didn’t walk anyone.

Francoeur also got off to a miserable start this season, with only two hits in his first 36 at-bats. He’s turned things around with a career-best 16-game hitting streak, in which he’s gone 26-of-74 (.351) with six homers to mimic the amazing start he got off to as a rookie last season.

Francoeur extended his streak with a leadoff double in the fourth, then hit a two-run homer off Scott Olsen (2-3) the next inning to make it 7-1.

The next pitch was Olsen’s last. Diaz lined his second homer in three days into the left-field seats, knocking out the Marlins starter with a dismal line: 4 2-3 innings, eight hits and eight runs.

Diaz, who platoons in left field with Ryan Langerhans, is on a 16-of-26 roll and already has a career-best 11 RBIs. He also made the best defensive play of the game, cutting off a liner into the left-fielder corner and throwing out Michael Jacobs trying to stretch into a double.

Notes: Francoeur had his second two-homer game of the season and third of his young major league career, which is still less than a year old. … The consecutive homers by Francoeur and Diaz marked the third time this year the Braves have gone back to back. … Florida dropped to 3-19 at Turner Field since the beginning of the 2004 season. … Compounding the Marlins’ misery: right fielder Joe Borchard lost a routine fly ball in the sun, giving Diaz a gift triple in the seventh. … Marcus Giles scored for the Braves on a wild pitch in the third.

AP-ES-05-18-06 1555EDT