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BRAVES 7, ASTROS 2: Offense returns against ex-mate

BRAVES 7, ASTROS 2: Offense returns against ex-mate
After mustering just one win and no home runs at Turner Field since April 15, the Braves wanted --- no, make that needed --- to give the home crowd something more than postgame fireworks Friday.

And they did that.

Jeff Francoeur hit a two-run homer in the first inning and the Braves knocked out ex-teammate Mike Hampton in the fifth inning of a 7-2 series-opening win against the Houston Astros that was delayed over two hours by rain and didn't end until 12:24 a.m.

The regular Friday night fireworks were canceled after the rain delay between the seventh and eighth innings, due to a city ordinance preventing fireworks displays after midnight.

Francoeur had three RBIs in his first game this season hitting fourth, the spot where homerless Casey Kotchman had batted since Brian McCann went on the disabled list a week ago.

The Braves got another quality start from Derek Lowe (3-1), who gave up eight hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings and came away unscathed in five different innings after the Astros advanced a runner into scoring position. He got help from reliever Peter Moylan in the last of those episodes.

Lowe is 7-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 12 starts for the Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers since Aug. 31.

Omar Infante and Yunel Escobar each added two hits and two RBIs for the Braves , who are back at .500 (11-11) and within two games of National League East leader Florida.

Only a few hundred fans from a crowd of 29,309 stuck around to see the last two innings when play resumed at 11:56 p.m.

The Astros got a two-out walk and a single in the ninth inning against reliever Jeff Bennett before closer Mike Gonzalez induced a flyout by Lance Berkman to end the game.

The Braves hit .237 during a 5-10 stretch before Friday, including a meager .220 with 14 runs scored during a 1-5 home skid since April 15. Francoeur's first-inning homer off Hampton (1-2), the third of the season for the resurgent right fielder, signaled that things might be different Friday.

Infante made his third consecutive start at second base and in the leadoff position in place of slumping Kelly Johnson, who manager Bobby Cox said would probably return to the lineup today. Infante led off the game with a single and snapped a 2-2 tie with a two-run single in the four-run fifth.

Hampton was charged with six runs (five earned) and five hits in 4 1/3 innings, and he got booed each time his name was announced.

The left-hander spent six injury-plagued seasons with the Braves through 2008, then opted to sign a one-year, $2 million contract with Houston, slightly less than what the Braves offered him.

During the early innings, a sign in front of the Chop House above right field read: "Hampton's Have Nots --- Thanks for Nothing."

The Braves paid Hampton $48.5 million over six seasons, during which he made 85 starts and went 35-24 with a 4.10 ERA. He missed two seasons and parts of others for injuries and elbow surgeries.

After Francoeur's two-out homer in the first inning, Hampton retired the next 10 hitters. Matt Diaz broke the string with a leadoff single in the fifth. After Jordan Schafer drew his 11th walk in eight games, Lowe reached on a throwing error by first baseman Lance Berkman on a sacrifice bunt.

With the bases loaded and one out, Infante drove in two with his single through the left side of the infield. Escobar followed with an RBI double off the left-field wall, and Hampton intentionally walked Chipper Jones before being replaced by reliever Geoff Gerry. Francoeur greeted Gerry with a single to right field that drove in the fourth run of the inning.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 2, 2009

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