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Hampton allows four hits over seven innings

5/1/2003

HOUSTON (AP) -- Mike Hampton got the best of his buddies on the
Houston Astros.

Hampton allowed four hits over seven innings in his second
strong start since coming off the disabled list and Chipper Jones
drove in four runs as the Atlanta Braves beat the Astros 11-1
Wednesday night.

"I've got some really good friends over there and it's fun to
face them," said Hampton, who pitched for the Astros from 1994
through 1999. "I've been gone for three years, but I still keep in
touch with them. Between the lines, though, I will battle them."

Jones doubled twice and Gary Sheffield homered, doubled and
drove in three runs. The Braves won for the 13th time in 15 games
and earned their sixth straight road victory.

"`He's still a good friend and I'll see him after the game, but
we won't talk much about this," Astros star Jeff Bagwell said.
"We knew pretty early that we were going to have to beat him away,
either hit it to right or hit it out because he wasn't giving us
much inside."

Hampton (1-1), who pitched for the Astros from 1994 through
1999, finally got run support from the Atlanta offense that had
given him only two runs in each of his first two starts. They had
13 hits against three Astros pitchers.

The left-hander allowed one run, walked one and struck out two.

"Hampton was absolutely great, that's the best I've seen him,"
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "The last two times he's been out
he's been terrific. He's a great athlete who helps himself."

Hampton was activated April 19 after recovering from a strained
right calf and allowed two hits over six innings in his last start
against St. Louis. He lost his first game to Philadelphia.

"That's the best I've felt in a long, long time," Hampton
said. "I was comfortable out there and I was keeping the ball down
in the zone. I lived outside. I threw a few four seamers and
sinkers and mixed in some changeups and lives down and away."

His only mistake was a solo homer by Morgan Ensberg into the
short left field Crawford box seats.

"With that short porch, if you make a mistake up, like I did to
Ensberg, it can hurt you," Hampton said. "If they beat me, they
were going to have to beat me down and away."

Jones had an RBI double in the fourth inning and drove in three
runs with another double in the five-run sixth. Sheffield also had
an RBI single and the fifth run scored when Brandon Puffer hit
Marcus Giles with a pitch with the bases loaded.

Sheffield hit his seventh homer in the eighth off Bruce Chen.
Wade Miller (0-3) failed to get a victory in his sixth start of
the season.

Miller, who tied for the major league lead with a 12-game
winning streak last year, kept the Braves in check until he ran
into control problems in the fourth inning and walked two as
Atlanta took a 3-0 lead.

Sheffield walked to start the inning and scored on Jones' double
to the right-center field gap. Andruw Jones walked and Robert Fick
followed with an RBI single.

Vinny Castilla hit into double play before Javy Lopez got an
infield hit and Hampton, who led major league pitchers with a .344
average last year, singled home the third run. It was Hampton's
first hit of the season.

The Braves got two more runs off Miller in the fifth on
Sheffield's RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Andruw Jones.

"He (Hampton) told me to just go after the hitters and keep it
down," Miller said. "That's my problem. I can't keep it down.
I've been working on it between starts so I'm just out of sync. I'm
just not locating it properly."

Hampton didn't allow a hit until Ensberg's second homer of the
season with one out in the fourth inning.

Miller pitched five innings, allowed eight hits, five runs, all
earned. He walked two and struck out two.

Game notes
Struggling Lance Berkman, moved from fourth to fifth in
batting order on Tuesday, dropped to No. 6 on Wednesday. The new
lineup has Jeff Kent batting fourth and Richard Hidalgo moving up
to No. 5. ... Berkman dropped to a .158 batting average (3-for-19)
against lefties.

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