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Braves rained out; Play doubleheader Saturday
Francoeur understands Yankees plight
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BOSTON A team that dominates a division for about a decade is bound to slip. Atlantas Jeff Francoeur experienced that last year, so he has a feeling for what the New York Yankees are going through this year. Youve just got to keep going, the Braves right fielder said Friday, but itll get to a point where you kind of got to put it in panic mode and get going. And Im sure the Yankees are getting close to that point. The Boston Red Sox led the Yankees by 9 1/2 games after sweeping a day-night doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday. The Red Sox play another one on Saturday against Atlanta because Friday nights opener of the three-game interleague series was rained out. We cant control the weather, Boston manager Terry Francona said. We try and we cant figure it out. Thats seems like one of the few things the Red Sox havent been able to do this season. Their 28-12 record is the best in baseball and tied for the third best 40-game mark in team history. Yet theres no sign of overconfidence. We really try to stay in the moment, Francona said. What happened last week happened, good or bad. Its done. What happens next week is a long way down the road. The Yankees have won the last nine AL East titles but were 18-21 after 39 games. The Braves streak of 11 straight NL East pennants ended last year when they were 19-20 after 39 games and finished third. They trailed the first-place New York Mets by at least 10 games from June 11 to the end of the season. They never got higher than third place after July 28. With such a disappointing showing, you start thinking wild card so quick, Francoeur said. Thats what we did. ... You dont want to get that behind early. The Braves are much better this year with a 25-16 record despite losing four of their last five games. And they should have the edge in starting pitching this weekend. Bostons Daisuke Matsuzaka (5-2) faces Anthony Larew (0-1) in Saturdays opener, but the Red Sox probably will use two pitchers expected to be recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket in the next two games, starting with Devern Hansack (0-0) against John Smoltz (5-2) Saturday night. Tim Hudson (5-1, 1.77 ERA) goes for Atlanta on Sunday. Boston hasnt announced its starter but it could be lefty Kason Gabbard (0-0). Francona feels much better about his starting depth this season than he did last year when the rotation was hit hard by injuries. Hansack and Gabbard both made their major league debuts with Boston in 2006. You can go from being so healthy to three days later being nicked up, Francona said. No Boston starters have missed an outing because of injury. But right-hander Josh Beckett is expected to go on the disabled list when the Red Sox need to use Hansack. With more rain expected Saturday and Sunday, the move hasnt been made yet. Beckett (7-0) is recovering from a torn flap of skin on the middle finger of his throwing hand. He threw indoors Friday and felt fine, Francona said. Beckett is expected to make his next start May 29 against Cleveland. Two hitters who missed Thursday nights game against Detroit were in Bostons lineup before Fridays game was rained out. Francona said designated hitter David Ortiz is better after feeling ill and that right fielder J.D. Drew should play two of the three weekend games after injuring his back last Tuesday. The Braves wont face Beckett, but they will see Matsuzaka for the first time. The rookie from Japan is coming off his best start, a complete-game victory over Detroit. He looks like a great pitcher, Francoeur said. I think the thing that helps him is hes got so many pitches. It seems he throws 10 pitches. The Braves plan to use their best two starters in the series, Hudson and Smoltz. We have all the confidence in the world that we can take two out of three, Francoeur said. Obviously, when youve got Smoltzie and Huddy going, you feel you can win about any game. I dont care if theyre facing the 27 Yankees.