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Hampton shuts down Nationals

ATLANTA (AP) -- Washington or Montreal, it really doesn't matter
to the Atlanta Braves.

Mike Hampton pitched eight strong innings, Rafael Furcal and
Andruw Jones hit two-run homers, and the Braves routed the
Washington Nationals 11-2 on Monday night.

This was nothing new for the team formerly known as the Montreal
Expos. Last season, the Braves beat Montreal 15 of 19 times and
they've won 10 of the last 11 series between the teams, splitting
the other.

"They have our number right now," Washington's Jose Vidro
said. "For some reason their pitching seems to shut us down. I
don't know if experience has a lot to do with it. I'm pretty sure
they have a very good scouting report on us."

Hampton (1-0) is on a roll against everyone. He went 12-2 in his
last 16 starts a year ago, and he's allowed only two runs in 14
innings this season.

"I feel pretty comfortable out there," Hampton said. "I feel
comfortable with my mechanics. I feel comfortable mentally and
physically."

Atlanta is well on its way to another series victory over
Montreal-turned-Washington, thanks to Hampton's effort and several
players finally having breakout games at the plate.

Furcal was hitting .138 when he homered in the fifth after
Hampton led off with a single. Jones was just a little better,
batting .217 when he hit his first homer of the season later in the
inning. That gave the Braves a 7-0 lead and finished off Washington
starter Zach Day.

Furcal, Jones and Adam LaRoche all finished with three RBI. The
Braves had 15 hits.

"The guys came out swinging the bats," Hampton said. "They
needed a game like that."

Day (0-1) should have known he would be in for a long night when
LaRoche, mired at .176, hit a two-run double off the center-field
wall in the first to get Atlanta rolling.

Raul Mondesi, the Braves' new right fielder, was just 2-for-20
when he lined an RBI double down the third-base line in the fourth
for a 3-0 lead.

The Braves scored only 16 runs in their first six games, hitting
.216 as a team. But manager Bobby Cox was never concerned.

"We've only played a couple games," he said. "I don't
consider this to be a team in a slump."

With the offense finally showing signs of life, Hampton probably
could have pitched his first complete game since last May 18, when
he was the hard-luck loser in Randy Johnson's perfect game.

But when the Braves piled on four more runs in the eighth,
Hampton's night was done. It was a good one on the mound (only
seven hits allowed) and at the plate (2-for-4 with two runs
scored).

"I felt fine," Hampton said. "Then we had that long inning,
and Bobby said he was going to get someone else in. I was fine with
that. We're here to win games."

Jose Guillen ended Hampton's shutout bid with one out in the
seventh, hitting his third homer of the season.

If the Braves thought they were having trouble offensively,
check out the Nationals. They have scored only five runs in their
last four games, getting shut out twice.

Day lasted only 4 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and bumping
his ERA to 9.00 in two starts.

Manager Frank Robinson summed it up bluntly: "Out of the strike
zone, out of the strike zone, out of the strike zone. His location
was terrible."

The Nationals dropped to 3-4 as they closed in on their first
regular-season game in Washington. They'll play two more in
Atlanta, wrapping up a nine-game road trip that precedes the home
opener at RFK Stadium on Thursday.

"This was not a pretty sight," Robinson said.

Game notes
After averaging 42,715 for a weekend series against the New
York Mets, attendance fell off dramatically on the first weeknight
game of the season. Despite a warm, clear night, the crowd of
16,584 was the smallest in Turner Field history, surpassing the
previous low of 17,345 for a 2003 game against Florida. ... Braves
RHP Tim Hudson will make his first regular-season start in Atlanta
on Tuesday.