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Archive for Sunday, June 19, 2005

At 46, Braves’ Franco packs punch

June 19, 2005

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— Julio Franco couldn't remember the last time he hit two homers in a game. He needed some details to fill in the memory blanks.

The year was 1996. He was playing for Cleveland. The opponent was the California Angels - yes, they belonged to the entire state back then, not just two cities.

"It's too far (back) for me," said Franco, who homered twice Saturday in Atlanta's 6-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. "Tell me what happened yesterday."

At age 46, his memory is a little worn. On some days, though, the legs and the swing are as fresh as a rookie's.

The age-defying first baseman hit a solo homer and a two-run shot Saturday off Eric Milton (3-9), starting another outburst by the Braves. Andruw Jones took the NL lead with his 19th homer, his seventh in the last eight days.

Johnny Estrada then sealed it with a two-run shot in the eighth off Kent Mercker, Atlanta's ninth homer in the last two games. But it was Franco's throwback performance that made everyone marvel.

"When you're with him every day, you think it's never going to end," manager Bobby Cox said. "Sometimes I'm amazed that he can do what he's doing at that age."

It was amazing that he stayed on the field long enough to hit two. Franco had a virus when the Braves arrived in town, and his temperature spiked again Friday, leaving him tired and weak.

"I'm losing weight," Franco said. "I can't eat well. I can't sleep well."

It sure didn't show.

"After the first home run, or maybe it was the second, I was thinking that he's kind of like a position player you could compare to Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson," said Reds manager Dave Miley, who is three years younger than Franco. "I don't know if remarkable's the right word, but he's impressive."

The Braves have done an impressive about-face in Cincinnati, winning the first three games despite having three starting pitchers on the disabled list. Atlanta hadn't won three in a row since a sweep of the Mets from May 23 to May 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 12â3 innings, earning the victory.

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