After starting the season strong, Hampton has lapsed back into another slump, going 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA over his last four starts.
The veteran southpaw is 2-3 with a 4.18 ERA this season after going 7-15 with an atrocious 6.15 ERA in 2002 for Colorado.
A lot of Hampton’s problems on the mound have stemmed from spotty control. He has walked 11 in 15 2-3 innings over his last three starts.
The Braves are looking for Hampton to give them the kind of performance veteran Greg Maddux executed on Wednesday.
Maddux shut down the Rangers’ potent lineup and Gary Sheffield hit a two-run homer to lead Atlanta to a 5-2 win. Maddux held the Rangers to two runs and nine hits over eight innings.
Sheffield went 2-for-3, raising his team-leading batting average to .351. The outfielder also leads Atlanta with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs.
“Sheff has been incredible,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He’s certainly at the top of the heap for MVP as far as I’m concerned.”
Center fielder Andruw Jones didn’t start for the third straight game because of an ailing shoulder, ankle and knee. He came off the bench to hit a game-winning homer in Tuesday’s 6-5 victory.
Texas has lost all five games it has ever played against Atlanta. The Braves swept the three-game series last season at The Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas has lost five straight overall.
STANDINGS: Rangers - 4th place, 13 GB, AL West. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Joaquin Benoit (2-2, 5.57 ERA). Benoit has given up 10 runs—eight earned—over his last 8 2-3 innings. The 25-year-old righty allowed four runs—two earned—and six hits in a 7-1 loss to Baltimore on Saturday. He has walked 14 over the last 20 innings.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Hampton (2-3, 4.18 ERA). Hampton was hammered in his only career outing against Texas. The southpaw gave up six earned runs and three home runs in just four innings of Colorado’s 10-2 loss to Texas back in 2001. Hampton allowed four runs—two earned—and eight hits over six innings in a 4-2 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Rangers - Hank Blalock, .358 avg.; Juan Gonzalez, 17 HRs; Gonzalez and Carl Everett, 42 RBIs; Everett, 46 runs; Alex Rodriguez, 6 SBs. Braves - Sheffield, .351 avg., 15 HRs and 50 RBIs; Rafael Furcal, 54 runs and 11 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Rangers - 0-2; Braves - 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Rangers - 1B Rafael Palmeiro and 2B Michael Young are both 2-for-3 with a home run in their careers against LHP Hampton. … 3B Blalock made two errors on Wednesday, giving him a team-high 11. … RHP Ugueth Urbina leads the AL with 17 saves. Braves - C Javy Lopez has missed five straight games with a sore right hamstring. He plans to return on Thursday. … RHP John Smoltz has a major league-leading 22 saves. Smoltz, who saved an NL-record 55 games in 2002, is on pace for more than 50 saves again this season. Dennis Eckersley holds the major league record for most saves over two seasons with 94 (1991-92). … SS Furcal leads the NL with 54 runs.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 11-18 on the road; Braves - 21-9 at home.
INJURIES: Rangers - INF Herbert Perry (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF Doug Glanville (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Chan Ho Park (back), 15-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (neck), 60-day DL. Braves - RHP Paul Byrd (back), 15-day DL.