ATLANTA -- Jeff Francoeur tried everything to break out of his slump. He cut his hair. He stopped shaving. Finally, he popped a couple of movies in the DVD player, watching the inspiring final minutes of both Gladiator and Rudy.
That one worked.
Francoeur homered and had a career-high five RBI Sunday, leading the Atlanta Braves to an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets that snapped a five-game losing streak and seemed about as important as a win can get on the final day of April.
"It's a big win -- no doubt," Francoeur said. "We don't want to get swept two series in a row, especially by the team that's ahead in our division. Hopefully this will give us some confidence."
The Braves lost the first two games in the series, scoring only two runs, and dropped seven games behind first-place New York in the NL East -- their largest deficit since being 7½ off the lead on June 2, 2001.
Coming off three losses in a row in Milwaukee last week, Atlanta was on the verge of its first back-to-back sweeps (in series of at least three games) since 1985, six years before the team began its run of 14 consecutive division titles.
Francoeur made that a moot point, snapping out of a slump that sent his average back below .200. He singled in each of his first three at-bats before hitting a mammoth two-run homer in the sixth that landed halfway up in the left-field seats.
"I've really been down on myself and it was starting to take a toll on me," he said. "So last night, I decided to watch a couple of movies. I watched the end of Gladiator and the end of Rudy."
Clearly, it had an impact.
"I'm a little superstitious, and sometimes you need something to get you going," Francoeur said. "If Rudy doesn't do it, nothing will."
Francoeur went 4-for-5, the four hits equaling his career high set last August during a brilliant rookie season that he's struggling to duplicate. The five RBI were two more than his previous best in a game. He also ended the game with a diving catch near the right-field line with two runners on.
"He's way too talented to be hitting .180 the whole season," teammate Marcus Giles said. "It's just a matter of time before he gets things going."
Kyle Davies (2-2) became the first Braves starter to win two games -- and both of them have been against the Mets. This wasn't nearly as dominating as his three-hit complete game at Shea Stadium on April 18, but he only had one bad inning before turning it over to the bullpen.
In the third, after being staked to a 3-0 lead, Davies gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Beltran and a run-scoring single to Cliff Floyd. With two runners on, the 22-year-old right-hander escaped the jam by striking out Ramon Castro.
"I wasn't as sharp as I was in New York," Davies said. "I left some pitches over the plate that they popped up, and we made some great defensive plays. But a win's a win."
Trachsel was yanked in the fourth after loading the bases on three walks. Manager Willie Randolph went with left-hander Darren Oliver, but the move backfired when the right-handed Francoeur lined a single to left that brought home two runs, putting Atlanta ahead 6-3.
Trachsel gave up eight hits and walked five, his ERA jumping from 3.13 to 4.72.
"It was his first bad outing of the year," Randolph said. "The bottom line is: He didn't hit his spots."
Francoeur's leadoff single in the second sparked a three-run inning -- more runs than the Braves scored in the first two games of the series. Ryan Langerhans had an RBI single and Giles drove in two more with a liner to right.
Endy Chavez hit his first homer of the season off Lance Cormier in the sixth, pulling the Mets to 6-4. But Francoeur's 436-foot homer against Jorge Julio in the bottom half restored a comfortable lead for the Braves.
Those extra runs came in handy when the Mets threatened in the eighth, taking advantage of two walks by Oscar Villareal. The second of those, to Jose Reyes with the bases loaded, prompted the Braves to call on embattled closer Chris Reitsma.
He bailed out Villareal by getting Kaz Matsui on a lazy fly to left, then finished off the Mets in the ninth for his fifth save in six chances.
Even with the loss, the Mets won 16 games in April -- tying their franchise record for the opening month of the season. And they head to May with a six-game lead over the Braves.
"It would have been nice to get out of here with a sweep," Trachsel said. But "we'll take two out of three every series."
|Jeff Francoeur goes 4-for-5 with a two-run homer and a three singles for a career-high five RBI. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|New York Mets|
|Jose Reyes, SS||2||1||1||1||3||0||1||.250|
|Kaz Matsui, 2B||5||0||0||0||0||1||8||.297|
|Carlos Beltran, CF||4||1||1||2||1||3||3||.279|
|Carlos Delgado, 1B||4||1||0||0||1||0||2||.298|
|David Wright, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||2||1||.303|
|Cliff Floyd, LF||5||1||2||1||0||0||1||.195|
|Ramon Castro, C||5||0||2||0||0||2||4||.423|
|Endy Chavez, RF||4||1||2||1||0||1||1||.255|
|Steve Trachsel, P||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||.222|
|Darren Oliver, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.500|
|a- Jose Valentin, PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.136|
|Jorge Julio, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Victor Diaz, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||3||.182|
|Chad Bradford, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Pedro Feliciano, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-singled for Oliver in the 6th|
|b-popped out for Julio in the 8th|
|HR - Carlos Beltran (4, Davies), Endy Chavez (1, Cormier)|
|RBI - Jose Reyes (12), Carlos Beltran 2 (11), Cliff Floyd (11), Endy Chavez (5)|
|2-OUT RBI - Jose Reyes (6), Carlos Beltran 2 (5), Cliff Floyd (6)|
|CS - Jose Reyes (3, 2nd base by Cormier/McCann)|
|Team LOB - 11|
|Outfield Assists - Endy Chavez 1|
|New York Mets|
|Steve Trachsel (L,2-2)||3.2||8||6||6||5||1||0||4.73|
|Pitches-Strikes - Steve Trachsel 87-44, Darren Oliver 17-11, Jorge Julio 39-24, Chad Bradford 13-5, Pedro Feliciano 6-3|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Steve Trachsel 7-2, Darren Oliver 1-2, Pedro Feliciano 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Steve Trachsel 23, Darren Oliver 6, Jorge Julio 8, Chad Bradford 3, Pedro Feliciano 2|
|Marcus Giles, 2B||5||0||1||2||0||1||0||.192|
|Edgar Renteria, SS||3||1||2||0||2||0||0||.365|
|Chipper Jones, 3B||4||1||0||0||1||2||2||.244|
|Andruw Jones, CF||2||2||1||0||3||0||2||.281|
|Adam LaRoche, 1B||4||0||0||0||1||1||6||.200|
|Jeff Francoeur, RF||5||2||4||5||0||0||2||.216|
|Brian McCann, C||3||1||2||0||1||1||0||.308|
|Ryan Langerhans, LF||4||1||2||1||0||0||3||.296|
|Kyle Davies, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.000|
|a- Wilson Betemit, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.250|
|Lance Cormier, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Ken Ray, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Matt Diaz, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||.200|
|Oscar Villarreal, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Chris Reitsma, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-struck out for Davies in the 5th|
|b-struck out for Ray in the 7th|
|2B - Edgar Renteria (5, Trachsel), Andruw Jones (5, Trachsel)|
|HR - Jeff Francoeur (4, Julio)|
|SH - Kyle Davies (1)|
|RBI - Marcus Giles 2 (4), Jeff Francoeur 5 (14), Ryan Langerhans (10)|
|2-OUT RBI - Jeff Francoeur 4 (8)|
|SB - Edgar Renteria (2, 2nd base off Trachsel/Castro)|
|CS - Ryan Langerhans (1, 2nd base by Julio/Castro)|
|Team LOB - 10|
|E - Brian McCann (1, Wild pickoff attempt)|
|Kyle Davies (W,2-2)||5||4||3||3||4||6||1||4.70|
|Lance Cormier (H,2)||1||2||1||1||0||1||1||3.14|
|Chris Reitsma (S,5)||1.1||1||0||0||1||1||0||5.59|
|HBP - Wright (by Kyle Davies)|
|WP - Kyle Davies (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Kyle Davies 101-54, Lance Cormier 17-7, Ken Ray 14-9, Oscar Villarreal 27-13, Chris Reitsma 25-14|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Lance Cormier 1-0, Oscar Villarreal 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Kyle Davies 24, Lance Cormier 4, Ken Ray 3, Oscar Villarreal 6, Chris Reitsma 6|
|Attendance - 35245|
|Game Time - 3:22|
|Temperature - 59|
|Umpires - Home - Alfonso Marquez, First Base - Chad Fairchild, Second Base - Larry Young, Third Base - Mike Everitt|