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Last-place Reds sweep Braves in 15 innings
Atlanta signs Julio Franco
BRAVES 4 col bw
Pedro Lopez, of the Cincinnati Reds, is tagged out by Brian McCann, left, as Lopez tries to score on a double by Aaron Harang in the fifth inning in Atlanta, Wednesday. The two teams played to a 3-3 stalemate until the Reds took a 5-3 lead in the 15th, the held on to sweep the Braves 5-4. - photo by Associated Press
    ATLANTA — Brandon Phillips was happy when he thought he was getting a day off, and ready when the Cincinnati Reds needed him the most.
    Phillips’ two-run single off rookie Jose Ascanio in the 15th inning gave the Reds a 5-4 victory over the Braves on Wednesday and their first three-game sweep in Atlanta since April 1990.
    ‘‘There’s never a day off in the National League,’’ said Phillips, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth before taking his usual spot at second base. ‘‘I didn’t even take any batting practice. I’ve learned my lesson.’’
    Phillips’ hit drove in Norris Hopper and Ken Griffey Jr. and helped the Reds improve to 8-3 in their last 11 games. Hopper reached on second baseman Kelly Johnson’s error to lead off the inning and Griffey singled to right with one out.
    ‘‘I was just trying to hit the ball up the middle,’’ Phillips said. ‘‘He left one hanging, and I was lucky enough to hit it up the middle.’’
    Ascanio (0-1), the seventh Atlanta pitcher, gave up two hits and two unearned runs in two innings. The Braves have lost three straight.
    Jeff Francoeur singled in Andruw Jones to cut it to 5-4 in the bottom half of the 15th. Atlanta went on to put runners on first and second with two outs but Michael Gosling (1-0) struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Davies, a starting pitcher, to end the game.
    Cincinnati employed an unusual defense in the 10th to extinguish a Braves rally.
    With Chipper Jones standing on third with one out and Francoeur about to hit, Reds interim manager Pete Mackanin moved center fielder Ryan Freel in front of the bag at second, and the strategy paid off.
    Phillips made a leaping catch of Francoeur’s liner before throwing to third baseman Jeff Keppinger to force out Jones, who had moved down the line to score the winning run. Jones’ RBI double earlier in the inning off David Weathers tied it at 3.
    ‘‘When I hit it, I thought the game was over,’’ Francoeur said. ‘‘He got it, and that stunned me. And then of course he threw out Chipper. It was like a nightmare, and then the game went on for another two hours. As the game went on, it didn’t seem like we were supposed to win.’’
    Scott Hatteberg gave the Reds a 3-2 lead with an RBI single off Tyler Yates in the 10th.
    Rafael Soriano came in to pitch the eighth and wasted a strong start by Braves right-hander John Smoltz, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game after he missed one turn in the rotation with right shoulder inflammation.
    The Braves were leading 1-0 when Smoltz left for a pinch hitter, but Adam Dunn hit a two-run drive off Soriano for his 26th homer.
    ‘‘I was basically just trying to get a pitch to hit and get on base,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘I wasn’t trying to hit a home run.’’
    Smoltz struck out a season-high 11, allowing just five hits and two walks in seven innings. The right-hander now has 41 career games with 10 or more strikeouts. His previous double-digit game was Aug. 21, when he had 10 in a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh.
    ‘‘I mentally was as good as I’ve ever been,’’ Smoltz said. ‘‘The physical part will kick back in when I get in the five-day routine.’’
    Aaron Harang allowed two runs and 10 hits in 7 2-3 innings for Cincinnati. He struck out eight and walked two. The last batter he faced, Francoeur, made it 2-2 with a sacrifice fly to score Andruw Jones.
    ‘‘Those games are great to win,’’ Mackanin said, ‘‘but you hate them when you lose.’’
Notes: Griffey became the 84th player in history with 2,500 hits when he singled in the first. ... Freel changed gloves to play infield in the 10th. ... The teams combined to leave 25 runners on base, 14 of them Braves. ... Cincinnati improved to 5-6 in extra innings. Atlanta is 2-3.

Franco rejoins Atlanta
    Julio Franco will get another chance to swing the bat in the big leagues.
    The 48-year-old utilityman signed with Atlanta on Wednesday, rejoining the Braves a week after he was cut by the New York Mets.
    Franco cleared waivers during the Braves’ game against Cincinnati. Atlanta signed him for the rest of the season and said he would be activated for Thursday night’s game against St. Louis.
    Franco, who turns 49 next month, played for the Braves in a backup role from 2001-05. He is a 24-year veteran with 2,576 career hits and is a lifetime .298 hitter.
    He hit just .200 (10-for-50) with one homer as a reserve with the Mets. Franco will serve in the same capacity for Atlanta.
    This season, Franco became the oldest player to hit a home run in major league history. He has said he would like to play until he turns 50.