ATLANTA - The Braves wanted Chipper Jones' bat back in the lineup.
But not at the expense of Julio Franco.
Franco showed why Tuesday night in Atlanta's 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Franco's game-deciding at-bat lacked the flair of a walk-off home run or game-winning hit, but it plated the winning run nonetheless. Batting with two outs in eighth inning and runners on second and third, Franco fouled off two pitches with two strikes before Kansas City reliever Jason Grimsley threw a wild pitch.
"Julio's tough in that situation," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He really makes a pitcher battle. You have to really work to get him out."
Andruw Jones scored the game-winner on the wayward sinker, which hit wide of the plate and bounced to the Turner Field backstop.
"That guy, he's filthy. His sinker must break a foot and a half," Franco said of Grimsley. "When you face a guy like that, you have to wait for your pitch to hit."
Franco kept the at-bat alive and in doing so helped the Braves improve their record to 31-32. Andruw Jones also pitched in, driving in the first two runs before scoring the third run.
Chipper Jones' return to the field for the first time since June 1 overshadowed the game itself, at least until Franco's at-bat. Most expected Jones to replace Franco at first when the Braves returned from a road trip.
Jones' iffy hamstring necessitated a move from left field to the infield, where playing would be less of a strain on his leg.
But playing Jones at first meant benching Franco and his .305 batting average. So Cox put Jones into the lineup at third base in place of Mark DeRosa.
Cox's move looked smart Tuesday.
Franco went 1-for-3 and eventually drew a walk in his eighth inning at-bat.
Jones went 1-for-4, including a sharp grounder to first base in the eighth that was scored an error but led to Franco's heroics.
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or email@example.com.
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