Bat has become a liability

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ATLANTA – Jeff Francoeur has been in a slump for nearly month. Maybe a night off will help.

The Braves right fielder wasn't in the lineup for tonight's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, replaced by Matt Diaz.

Francoeur put up solid numbers in April after a disappointing 2008 season, but he's become a huge liability in the Atlanta lineup. Since May 10, he was hitting just .191 (18 of 94) with one homer and seven RBI.

Coming off a 15-inning marathon the previous night, in which Francoeur went 1-for-5, manager Bobby Cox decided it was a good time to sit his right fielder.

"My legs are for sure feeling the effects," Francoeur said.

The Braves also tweaked their lineup at first base. Pinch-hitting specialist Greg Norton got the start – his first action in the field all season – in place of Martin Prado, whose groin was a little sore. Regular first baseman Casey Kotchman is on the disabled list.

Norton planned to put some extra padding in his mitt to handle the throws of strong-armed shortstop Yunel Escobar.

"This is the first time I've been on the field in 70 days, or whatever it's been," Norton said. "I've been taking my ground balls in (batting practice). I'll just go out there and do the best I can."

Norton came into the game with 43 plate appearances in 46 games – all as a pinch-hitter.

HONORING COX: Cox was honored before the game after earning his 2,000th victory with the Braves the previous night.

Cox became just the fourth manager in baseball history to win 2,000 games with one club. He joined Connie Mack (3,657), John McGraw (2,658) and Walter Alston (2,040).

It took 15 innings to pull out the landmark win. Cox was so relieved when the game finally ended, he threw his lineup cards up in the air. Then, he saw the scoreboard flashing congratulations on his 2,000th victory, so he retrieved his cards and gave them to a clubhouse attendant for safekeeping.

"I really didn't anticipate it taking this long," Cox quipped during a brief ceremony in front of the Braves' dugout. "I apologize for that."

He thanked team president John Schuerholz and general manager Frank Wren "for putting up with me all these years. But most of all, I want to thank you, the fans, and our players."

The Braves raised a flag at Turner Field commemorating Cox's 2000th win. He also was presented with an engraved crystal and a framed replica of the flag, signed by everyone on the team.

Cox won another 355 games during his four years as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1980s. He ranked fourth on the career list behind Mack (3,731), McGraw (2,763) and St. Louis' Tony La Russa (2,492 and counting).

PIRATES ROTATION: Pittsburgh right-hander Jeff Karstens will get a chance to redeem himself for losing the opening game of the series.

Karstens came on in the 15th inning Monday night, giving up two hits, two walks and the deciding run in Atlanta's 7-6 victory.

He was the eighth pitcher to work for the Pirates, making his first relief appearance of the season because Pittsburgh had no one else. But Karstens will still make his scheduled start on Wednesday since he only threw 18 pitches.

EXTRA BASES: Braves OF Nate McLouth became just the third player since 1980 to have at least three hits and a homer in the first game against a team he played with that season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Fred Lynn did it for Detroit against Baltimore in 1988, and Jorge Fabregas matched the feat for the Chicago White Sox vs. the Angels in 1997. ... Monday night's game was second longest between the Braves and the Pirates in the last 50 innings. Pittsburgh won a 16-inning game on May 6, 1992. ... Braves RHP Tim Hudson threw 60 pitches Monday, working in some changeups and cutters for the first time as he comes back from major elbow surgery. He's not expected to rejoin the Braves before August.


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