Atlanta (16-10) at Houston (11-14)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 98° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Wed Apr 30, 2003
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Atlanta Braves look to continue their winning ways as they face the Houston Astros in the middle game of their series at Minute Maid Park.

Atlanta has rebounded nicely from a 4-8 start to the season, having won 12 of its last 14 contests, including a 3-1 win over Houston on Tuesday night.

Braves second baseman Marcus Giles has played a large role in the team’s success, batting .363 with eight doubles, four home runs, 14 RBIs and a .435 on-base percentage.

“He’s playing great, doing everything a manager could want,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He bunts, steals a base, hits for power, moves runners over, he’s rugged, turns a double play.”

Another major contributor is closer John Smoltz, who worked a scoreless ninth inning on Tuesday night to record his 10th save in as many tries and 26th in a row dating to last season.

“The only selfish goals I have are to pitch in as many games as we win,” Smoltz said. “I don’t want to blow two in a row. I guess I want to keep the streak alive as long as I can.”

The Astros fell three games under .500 for the first time all season with the loss, which again came with a lack of offense.

The defeat was their 12th in 16 games, and it was the eighth time they’ve been held to two runs or less in this stretch.

“It’s going to be OK,” Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell said. “We’ve got too much talent in here. We’re going to be in the thick of this thing before it’s over.”

STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place (tied), NL East. Astros - 3rd place, 3 1/2 GB, NL Central.

BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Mike Hampton (0-1, 4.91 ERA). The left-hander deserved a better fate in his last start, a solid effort in the Braves’ 4-3 win over the Cardinals on April 24. He did not register a decision despite allowing just two runs and two hits over six innings. His control has been off in his first two starts, walking eight batters in 11 innings of work. He is 1-0 with a 5.95 ERA in three career starts against his former club, with whom he pitched from 1994-99.

ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Wade Miller (0-2, 5.47 ERA). The right-hander is still winless after five starts this season, and is coming off his shortest outing of the year in his last start, lasting just three innings in the team’s 7-4 loss at New York on April 24. Miller allowed five runs, six hits, four walks and struck out one. He is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three career starts against the Braves.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Braves - Giles, .362 avg; Gary Sheffield, 6 HRs and 22 runs; Andruw Jones, 21 RBIs; Rafael Furcal, 5 SBs. Astros - Bagwell, .337 avg; 10 HRs and 19 RBIs; Craig Biggio, 18 runs; Richard Hidalgo, 3 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Braves, 1-0.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - LHP Hampton is 4-for-5 in his career against RHP Miller, with two home runs and five RBIs. … The Braves optioned C Johnny Estrada to Triple-A Richmond before the game. … OF Chipper Jones is 5-for-9 with four doubles against RHP Miller. Astros - 2B Jeff Kent owns team-best totals of two home runs and seven RBIs against LHP Hampton. … The Astros have won only one season series (1998) from the Braves since Atlanta started its string of 11 straight division titles. … 1B Bagwell and OF Berkman are a combined 8-for-19 against LHP Hampton.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 6-4 on the road; Astros - 5-5 at home.

INJURIES: Braves - RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL. Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (rotator cuff), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (right flexor tendon), 15-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Hampton Ari vs. W. Miller Tor
14-8 Record 14-13
3.84 ERA 4.13
110 K 161
78 BB 77
1.39 WHIP 1.31