Originally created 05/25/05

Furcal, Giles hope to end slumps



ATLANTA - Given the wacky final two innings Monday in Atlanta's 8-6 win against New York, it was easy to lose sight of the big reasons why the Braves had those eight runs.

The team's top two hitters in the order - Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles - only had a hit apiece, but they were both big ones.

Furcal cleared the bases with a two-out triple in the second to put Atlanta ahead, 4-1. After the Mets had trimmed the lead, Giles hit a two-out, three-run home run to right-center field to make it 7-3.

"I think it's obvious that if (Furcal) and I don't do well, it's going to be a tough night scoring runs," said Giles, who had only one other homer this season and that came April 22. "It's pretty imperative that we set the table."

Giles nearly wasn't even in the lineup Monday. Sliding into home Sunday in Boston had caused his back to tighten and spasm.

The second baseman credited the Braves' medical staff with getting him fit to play with minimal pain. Giles, who came out in the eighth Monday, said Tuesday his back was much better.

He said he and Furcal can't be satisfied with one productive day. They need more consistent output, Giles said.

"That's what we expect of ourselves, and that's what we plan on doing," he said.

Giles went through a 5-for-57 rut on the team's recent road trip.

Furcal's batting skid had been even more woeful. Before the triple, his average had dipped to .210. He was two for his previous 37.

Furcal, who went 1-for-3, also walked twice. He hadn't taken a base on balls since May 10.

"I think that made me feel better," Furcal said. "I'd been having a little struggle for a while now. I helped my team. That's what we needed."

That help will be especially needed with Chipper Jones' side muscle keeping him out of the lineup. There's a chance he might play tonight, but Friday against Philadelphia is his most likely return date.

Brian Jordan missed Tuesday's game because of a sore wrist. He hurt it in the ninth inning Monday, when he nearly collided with Andruw Jones trying to go for a ball in the gap.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said Jordan will probably sit out today also.

CLOSING TIME: Closer Dan Kolb was very much in the middle of Monday's zany finish.

He allowed a homer, a triple and walked a batter, but squirmed to strike out the side and get his 11th save, a most unexpected one.

After outings like that - and worse ones - Cox demoted Kolb last week and said he'd be used in a middle-relief role until he worked through his lingering control problems.

Kolb has walked 17 batters, two more than he did all last season with the Brewers.

"I was happy for Kolby. It felt right to go with him there," Cox said. "I think he'll take positives out of that."

Reach Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.