Braves rock Hampton, Astros

BY foxsports • May 2, 2009

The boos from his former hometown fans didn't bother Mike Hampton. The real problem, he said, was his bad pitches gave Atlanta fans a reason to cheer.

Jeff Francoeur hit a two-run homer and drove in another run to help the Braves beat the Houston Astros 7-2, spoiling Hampton's return to Atlanta on Friday night.

Hampton signed with the Astros after six years with the Braves, where he battled a long series of injuries and was able to appear in more than 13 games twice.

Hampton (1-2) drew loud boos in pregame warmups, before each of his two at-bats and as he was removed from the game in the decisive fifth inning. He gave up five hits and six runs in 4 1-3 innings.

The negative reception was no big deal, he insisted.

"I'm used to that," Hampton said. "It's part of the game.

"I've been the visiting pitcher in a lot of places. It's happened before. ... I wanted to pitch well, but I just didn't have command of my pitches on either side of the plate."

Houston catcher Ivan Rodriguez set a target on the inside of the plate on the first-inning pitch Francoeur hit to left for a two-run homer, but Hampton left the pitch over the middle of the plate.

"I made some mistakes in crucial situations, and they took advantage of it," Hampton said.

Astros manager Cecil Cooper said Hampton "didn't throw enough quality pitches. He got in trouble."

Francoeur said the boos for Hampton were not a surprise.

"I hated it for him, all the boos," Francoeur said. "We all knew it was coming. But he knows how every single person in this clubhouse feels about him and I think that's all that matters.

"When you know how hard he tried to get on the mound, it was tough to hear that for him tonight."

Derek Lowe (3-1) allowed eight hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings.

The game was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 2 minutes after the seventh inning.

Omar Infante and Yunel Escobar each had two hits and drove in two runs as the Braves scored more than four runs for only the third time in 16 games.

Francoeur, hitting cleanup for the first time this season, lined a two-run homer to left off Hampton in the first. He added a run-scoring single to right off Geoff Geary in the fifth after Hampton loaded the bases with an intentional walk to Chipper Jones.

Francoeur hit only .182 (6 for 33) with the bases loaded last season. He is 2-for-2 with three RBIs in that situation this season.

"As much as I love the home run, my single with the bases loaded was probably even better for me," he said. "Just going the other way, getting two strikes on you and laying off the slider, then hitting a slider to right field. ... It's been a little bit different for me with the bases loaded this year."

Infante had a two-run single and Escobar drove in another run with a double in the fifth. Escobar was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Hunter Pence on Francoeur's single.

The Braves' regular cleanup hitter, catcher Brian McCann, is on the disabled list due to blurred vision. McCann has ended an experiment with new contact lenses and said Friday he will try to play with new glasses.

Escobar's seventh-inning single off Jeff Fulchino drove in Brandon Jones, who walked as a pinch-hitter.

Hampton made only 25 starts from 2005-2008 because of frequent elbow and back problems. He missed the 2006 and 2007 seasons and then made only 13 starts in 2008, when he was 3-4 with a 4.85 ERA.

Michael Bourn had three hits, including a first-inning triple. He scored on Lance Berkman's groundout. The Astros added another run in the fourth when Pence walked, moved to third on a single by Rodriguez and scored on Hampton's grounder.


Two Houston team doctors successfully drained 40 cubic centimeters of fluid from RHP Jose Valverde's right calf on Friday, one day after he had 20 cubic centimeters of fluid removed. Valverde's expected recovery time is three to five weeks. ... Astros manager Cecil Cooper said RHP Felipe Paulino will move to the bullpen when RHP Brian Moehler returns from the disabled list to start on Tuesday at Washington. ... Jason Smith grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, extending to 20 his string of at-bats without a hit this season, the longest in the majors.

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