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McCann, Francoeur, Schafer homer in Braves' opening day win

PHILADELPHIA - If Derek Lowe had been this dominant last October, the Philadelphia Phillies might not be World Series champions.

Lowe pitched eight superb innings, three Braves homered off Brett Myers, and Atlanta beat the defending champs 4-1 in the major league opener Sunday night.

Lowe (1-0) allowed two hits, no walks, struck out four and the sinkerballer got 13 groundouts. Mike Gonzalez pitched out of trouble in the ninth to secure the win.

The Phillies had better luck against Lowe when he pitched for Los Angeles in the NL championship series. They beat him in Game 1 of the NLCS and he had a no-decision in the Dodgers' loss in Game 4.

"Having just played them, it was easy to watch video to see what you did last time," Lowe said. "They're an extremely good hitting team. I was able to get ahead in the count. I just wanted to be consistent."

Brian McCann hit a two-run homer, Jeff Francoeur had a solo shot and Jordan Schafer went deep in his first career at-bat for the Braves.

Once Lowe came out, the Phillies rallied. Pinch-hitter Eric Bruntlett started the ninth with a double and scored on Jayson Werth's one-out RBI single. After Gonzalez walked Chase Utley to bring up the tying run, the hard-throwing lefty struck out Ryan Howard looking and Raul Ibanez swinging to end it.

"He was awesome," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Lowe. "He really knows how to pitch."

Atlanta gave Lowe a $60 million, four-year contract to anchor its revamped rotation, and the 35-year-old right-hander pitched like an ace in his debut with his new team. He gave the Braves the type of masterful effort they used to get from Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson.

"It's nice to get Derek Lowe a win," McCann said. "He had great stuff. It's a lot better to catch him than hit against him."

Myers (0-1) filled in for Cole Hamels, whose first start was pushed back because of minor elbow problems. Hamels, the NLCS and World Series MVP, is expected to pitch at Colorado on Friday.

The Phillies celebrated the franchise's second World Series title during an hour-long ceremony before the game. Led by the Phanatic and veteran pitcher Jamie Moyer, players entered the field from Ashburn Alley behind the stands in left-center field. They walked past adoring fans in the aisles, down stairs and onto a red carpet that stretched from the warning track to the infield.

Then manager Charlie Manuel raised the 2008 championship flag on the concourse behind the brick batter's eye. After a giant American flag was unfurled in the outfield, players were introduced to rousing ovations. Fans who used to boo Manuel lustily chanted "Charlie, Charlie" when the lovable skipper jogged out.

Even their uniforms had a special look only for this game. All the red lettering and numbers were trimmed in gold.

The festive crowd of 44,532 had barely settled into the seats by the time the Braves jumped ahead. Making his third straight opening-day start, Myers retired the first two batters before Chipper Jones lined a single to left. McCann followed with a shot that reached the second deck in right field.

A smattering of boos were heard while McCann circled the bases. It wouldn't be Philly without some jeers. Myers got an earful a bit later, too.

"That's part of it. We can handle it," Manuel said. "A lot of people were here. They wanted to see a good game. We got off to a slow start."

Francoeur led off the second with a liner into the seats in left. One batter later, Schafer drove one out to center. The rookie center fielder became the fifth Atlanta player to homer in his debut and first since Francoeur did it in 2005.

"It was a great feeling," Schafer said. "As soon as I hit it, I thought, 'Oh Wow.'"

Myers settled in after that inning. He allowed four runs and eight hits, striking out six in six innings. Coming off a down-and-up season in which he was briefly demoted to the minors, the 28-year-old right-hander has plenty riding on his performance because he's in the final season of a $25.75 million, three-year contract.

"I made three mistakes and they didn't miss them," Myers said. "Sometimes they pop those up. Not in this case. Give them credit."

The Phillies are favorites to win their third straight NL East title mainly because they have nearly the same team that went 11-3 against Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay in the postseason.

But Philadelphia's star-studded offense sputtered in the opener. Jimmy Rollins, Utley and Howard combined to go 1-for-11 with two strikeouts.

"Derek Lowe's a tough guy to hit. He was on his game," Howard said. "He's a groundball pitcher. I don't know if he has a magnet in there to keep it down or whatever. Give him credit."

Notes: The Phillies are 56-69-2 in openers. They've lost four straight openers for the first time since dropping eight in a row from 1985-92. ... The Braves are 19-25 in openers since moving to Atlanta. ... Schafer is the first Braves player to make his big-league debut as a starter on opening day since LF Rufino Linares in 1981. ... Jones set an Atlanta record by playing in his 14th season opener. ... NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson presented a Phillies jersey that he wore in space to Manuel before the game. ... Phillies former general manager Pat Gillick, who retired after last season, threw out the first pitch. ... Miss America Katie Stam sang the national anthem.