ATLANTA (AP) – Jeff Francoeur always enjoys beating his first team.
This one was especially sweet.
Francoeur had an RBI single and Wade Davis made it stand up with five-hit ball over seven innings, leading the Kansas City Royals past the Braves 1-0 on Wednesday to stop Atlanta’s 10-game winning streak.
Born and raised in the Atlanta area, Francoeur started his career with his hometown team before being traded in 2009. Now on his third team since his days with the Braves, he visited with dozens of family and friends during batting practice, then came through when it mattered in the fourth.
“It means a little bit more personally,” Francoeur said. “You want to say you’re focused all the time but there’s definitely some extra motivation coming home here for me.”
The Braves were seeking their first 13-1 start since 1994, but the powerful Atlanta offense finally was stifled, a day after homering five times against the Royals.
Davis (2-0) didn’t walk anyone and struck out seven, and the Braves couldn’t get a runner past first base until Jason Heyward’s two-out double in the sixth. Their only serious scoring chance came in the seventh, when Juan Francisco was thrown out easily trying to score from first on a pop down the right-field line.
“My goal was to get ahead,” Davis said. “They have a pretty good offense. I had to mix it up a lot and minimize mistakes.”
The Braves were frustrated all day by home-plate umpire Doug Eddings, who called them out on seven of their 11 strikeouts. After taking strike three in the seventh, Dan Uggla walked all the way around the catcher to talk with Eddings face to face. Manager Fredi Gonzalez came a few steps out of the dugout, ready to run out in things got heated, but Uggla simply walked away after making his feelings known to Eddings.
“I’ve known Doug ever since I’ve been in the league,” Uggla said. “He’s a good umpire. But you don’t always agree with the calls.”
The Braves had the heart of the order up in the ninth, but Greg Holland – who came in with an ERA of 12.00 – struck out the side for his third save in four chances. Justin Upton went down swinging, Evan Gattis was called out on a breaking ball that appeared a little high, and Uggla ended the game by taking another borderline pitch high in the strike zone.
Uggla stood at the plate in disbelief, flipping his bat, his helmet and his batting gloves to the ground. Eddings simply walked off toward the tunnel.
Afterward, the Braves focused more on Davis’ dominant performance than any disagreements with the ump.
“Davis threw a great game,” Uggla said. “He kept us off balance and made the pitches when he needed to make them.”
Mike Minor (2-1) had another strong outing for the Braves, allowing just five hits and the lone run in six innings. The left-hander’s ERA over three starts is 0.95.
Neither team had pushed a runner as far as second base until the fourth, when the Royals caught a couple of breaks before Francoeur’s two-out hit.
Alcides Escobar led off with a single to right, breaking an 0-for-15 slump, but it appeared he wouldn’t be on base for long when he got stranded between first and second after a pitch. Rookie catcher Gattis tried to run at Escobar but held the ball for too long, allowing the runner to slide back into first just ahead of the throw.
Gattis pumped his fists and screamed at himself under his mask for letting Escobar off the hook.
“He’s got to give it up a little sooner,” Gonzalez said. “That’s something you’ve got to learn up here in the big leagues, the speed of the game. It was a learning moment for him.”
That turned out to be a crucial play. With two outs, Lorenzo Cain hit a little dribbler down the third-base line for an infield hit, then Francoeur came through on an 0-2 pitch, singling to left field when Minor left a change-up in the strike zone against a free-swinging batter who is prone to chase bad pitches.
In the seventh, Atlanta put together its best scoring chance against Davis. Francisco, who homered twice against the Royals on Tuesday, singled to right with two outs for his second hit of the game. Then, Chris Johnson lofted a popup that down the right-field line that landed about a foot fair, just out of the grasp of diving second baseman Chris Getz.
But Getz hustled to his feet, tracked down the ball alongside the rolled-up tarp, and alertly spotted Francisco trying to score all the way from first. The throw to the plate was in plenty of time to get the lumbering runner.
Escobar had an error in the first, throwing high after fielding a grounder by leadoff hitter B.J. Upton, but the Royals shortstop came up with a couple of nifty defensive plays – one a barehanded grab on a grounder in the hole, another a diving stop on a wickedly hit ball by Chris Johnson to set up a double play.
NOTES: Francoeur and Royals manager Ned Yost, who also has ties to Atlanta, will stay a little longer and travel separately to join the team in Boston. Kansas City is off Thursday before beginning a weekend series against the Red Sox. It will be Sox’s first home game since the three people were killed and hundreds injured in the Boston Marathon bombing. … The Braves got an encouraging report on LHP Luis Avilan, who collapsed on the mound while pitching in the ninth inning Tuesday. The apparent injury to his left hamstring turned out to be a serious cramp. Avilan said “it’s way better now” and he’s hoping to avoid the DL. The left-hander believes he can pitch again after a couple of days off. The Braves already have two relievers on the DL: Jonny Venters and Cristhian Martinez. … Julio Teheran (0-0) will pitch for the Braves in the opener of a four-game series in Pittsburgh on Thursday. Jeff Locke (1-1) goes for the Pirates.