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Francoeur gets back to form in Big Apple

Jeff Francoeur was hoping for a fresh start.

In New York, he got just that.

Lost amid all the Mets' struggles was the fact that the former Parkview all-everything had as good a second half this season as he did after being called up by the Atlanta Braves in 2005.

All that was missing was the rookie fanfare. It's been five seasons since Francoeur was proclaimed "The Natural" by Sports Illustrated.

Look how similar, though, the numbers are:

· Francoeur hit .300 with 20 doubles, 14 homers and 45 RBIs in 70 games for the Braves after being promoted from the minors on July 7, 2005.

· After being traded by the Braves to the Mets on July 10 this year, the right fielder hit .311 with 20 doubles, 10 homers and 41 RBIs in 75 games.

Free of the pressures of trying to live up to the expectations of his hometown fans, Francoeur appears to be back to where he started and that's a good thing.

"It was nice to just be playing baseball again," the 25-year-old said during the Mets' last trip of the season back to Turner Field. "There was a lot of pressure in Atlanta and I let it get to me."

Pressure is something you usually associate with playing in New York. But Francoeur could stay under the radar there, at least for this season with the Mets losing 92 games.

After hitting .250 with just five homers in 82 games for the Braves, Francoeur was able to get his overall average for the season up to .280. He finished with 32 doubles, four triples, 15 homers and 76 RBIs. The right fielder walked only 23 times, but his 92 strikeouts was his lowest ever for a full season.

Maybe most impressive of all was that Francoeur could hit as well as he did for the Mets despite tearing a ligament in his left thumb diving for a ball against Philadelphia in late August. He is scheduled for surgery later this month.

Although Francoeur's final overall numbers may not have been what was once projected for him, they certainly beat what he put up in 2008 for the Braves. He hit .239 with 11 homers and 71 RBIs during that troubled season.

The trade to the Mets for outfielder Ryan Church turned out to be a big lift for Francoeur, but not much benefit to the Braves. Bothered by back problems, Church played only 44 games for Atlanta and batted .260 with two homers and 18 RBIs.