08/01/2007 10:23 AM ET
Francoeur: Must win close games
Winning close games will be a key for us if we're going to return to the postseason this year.
When you lose games late or in extra innings, those are big. We're going to be on the right side and the wrong side of some 6-1 games. Those one-run games can be influenced by a single play, good or bad.
We've played well against some of the teams we're competing against. We're 6-3 against the Mets, for example, and we have nine more games with them. We need to maintain that advantage.
Not getting into the postseason last year made us take a step back and realize we have to work harder. That's what I've gotten from veteran players like Chipper Jones.
Adding a bat like Mark Teixeira's to our lineup will help. Our pitchers will work hard and we need to support them. Veteran pitchers like John Smoltz and Tim Hudson will do their jobs. If we can support those guys with our offense, that's when it gets fun around here.
Personally, I feel pretty good about my game right now. I've improved each season, overall, and I'm coming along with my hitting approach to right field. That's something I continue to work on and probably always will.
I've also become a better two-strike hitter. In the past, I would attack the first or second pitch, but now I'm not concerned about hitting when I'm down in the count. Pitchers still have to throw me a strike that I can hit. My confidence in two-strike situations is better than ever.
My willingness to go to right field enhances my ability to hit with two strikes. Last year, I was always trying to pull the ball. This year, I would estimate that 40 percent of my hits have gone to right field.
When you use all the fields as a hitter it becomes tough on a pitcher. If a guy throws a good slider and I place it in right field, it's frustrating for him. Hitting to right is probably the biggest reason my batting average is up this season.
I like to watch the way Chipper and Edgar Renteria approach hitting. They're both good at hitting to all fields and they're good overall hitters. That's what I am striving to be.
Jeff Francoeur, an Atlanta native, hit 29 home runs and drove in 103 runs, second on the team, while playing in all 162 games last season. The 6-foot-4 right fielder is batting .300 with 12 home runs and 69 RBIs this season.