CINCINNATI – Age-defying Julio Franco had his first two-homer game since 1996, and Andruw Jones extended his tear with a solo shot Saturday night, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 6-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

The 46-year-old Franco had a solo homer and a two-run shot off left-hander Eric Milton (3-9), giving him five for the season. Jones took the NL lead with his 19th homer, his seventh in the last eight days.

Johnny Estrada sealed it with a two-run shot in the eighth off Kent Mercker, Atlanta’s ninth homer in the last two games.

The Braves have done an about-face in Cincinnati, winning the first three games with three starting pitchers on the disabled list. Atlanta hadn’t won three in a row since a sweep of the Mets from May 23-25.

For the Reds, it was another gloomy night in front of their first sellout crowd since opening day. Cincinnati has lost six in a row, falling a season-worst 16 games under .500. Since their chief executive delivered a win-or-else ultimatum, the Reds have gone 5-8.

Reliever Adam Bernero (4-1) blanked the Reds for 1 2-3 innings, getting the victory as the Braves’ cobbled staff repeatedly dodged trouble. Cincinnati stranded 13 runners, nine in scoring position.

Reliever Jorge Sosa made his second start of the season – this one on only three days of rest – and limited the Reds to Sean Casey’s RBI single in 4 1-3 innings. Sosa is filling in while the Braves wait for John Thomson, Mike Hampton and Tim Hudson to recover from injuries.

Milton was supposed to be the cornerstone of a revamped Reds rotation, signing on for three years at $25.5 million last December. Instead, the left-hander leads the league in losses, hits, runs and homers allowed with 25. Last year, he gave up 43 homers, most in the NL.

Franco got the Braves rolling with a two-out solo shot in the first. His two-run homer made it 3-0 in the third and gave him his first multihomer game since Sept. 12, 1996, for Cleveland.

Since then, his hardscrabble career has taken him to Milwaukee, Japan, Mexico, Tampa Bay, Korea, Mexico again, and finally Atlanta, where he’s showing he’s still got something left in that well-traveled body.

During the series opener, Franco stole a pair of bases for the first time since 1994. Franco, who turns 47 on Aug. 23, is the oldest major leaguer to steal a base.

He’s the second-oldest to homer. Jack Quinn was a week shy of his 47th birthday when he homered for the Philadelphia Athletics on June 27, 1930.

Jones, who had two homers in Friday’s 10-5 win, made it 4-1 with his 418-foot drive to center in the fifth inning. He’s 8-for-21 career off Milton with four homers.

Notes: Franco has five multihomer games in his career. … Sosa also had his first career hit, a single. … The Reds had a business promotion and a cap giveaway, accounting for the crowd of 41,737. … Milton has given up at least one homer in 13 of his 15 starts. He’s 1-8 since April 21 with an 8.58 ERA. … The Reds have given up 103 homers, most in the majors. … Reds C Jason LaRue left in the eighth after twisting his right knee while rounding first base on a single.

AP-ES-06-18-05 2216EDT


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