Atlanta (82-46) at Colorado (64-67)

Rain Currently: Denver, CO, US
Temp: 66° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Sat Aug 23, 2003
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Mike Hampton insisted the thin air of hitter-friendly Coors Field wouldn’t get to him when he signed a lucrative multiyear contract with the Colorado Rockies prior to the 2001 season.

Nearly three years later, he’s probably glad he only has to visit Denver once a season as a member of the Atlanta Braves.

Hampton will make his first start at Coors since being dealt to Atlanta this past offseason as the Braves resume a three-game series with the Rockies.

Hampton, who went 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA and earned NL championship series MVP honors with the Mets in 2000, opted to leave New York and sign an eight-year, $121 million deal with the Rockies. He proceeded to suffer through two dismal years, including a career-worst 7-15 mark with a 6.15 ERA in 2002.

The Rockies unloaded Hampton to the Braves, and under the tutelage of pitching coach Leo Mazzone, he has returned to form. The sinker-balling southpaw is 8-0 in his last nine starts, yielding one earned run or fewer four times during that stretch.

On Monday, Hampton allowed one run and four hits over eight innings in a 6-1 victory over Arizona.

“He’s been lights out,” Atlanta catcher Robert Fick said. “He’s turned it around, he’s throwing strikes and he’s getting a lot of groundballs. I wouldn’t want to face him.”

After two lost years, Hampton is just grateful to be with an organization that could play well into October.

“I’m very blessed to be in this position, to be with the team,” he said. “A lot of things could have happened over the past four, five, six months, and to have a team of this caliber, with this front office, believe in me and put me in this position, it says a lot.”

Ironically, Hampton has had some measure of success at Coors, going 16-10 in 31 career starts despite a 5.86 ERA.

“I don’t look at (my time with the Rockies) as down time,” he said. “I came here for a reason. I came here to help this team win a World Series. It didn’t happen. I’ve moved on and that organization has moved on, and I think it has worked out well for both.”

Chipper Jones homered and drove in five runs as the Braves snapped a three-game losing streak with a 9-3 win in Friday’s series opener.

Charles Johnson homered for Colorado, which had a three-game win streak snapped.

STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place, NL East. Rockies - 4th place, 14 GB, NL West.

BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Hampton (11-5, 4.04 ERA). Hampton is 7-3 with a 4.65 ERA in 18 career appearances, including 15 starts, against the Rockies.

ROCKIES PROBABLE STARTER: Chin-hui Tsao (2-1, 5.86 ERA). Tsao suffered his first loss in five career starts Monday, surrendering season highs of seven runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings in an 8-0 defeat to the New York Mets. The rookie right-hander, a native of Taiwan, had yielded more than three runs just once in his previous four starts. Tsao will be making his first career appearance against Atlanta.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Braves - Gary Sheffield, .333 avg., 99 RBIs and 104 runs; Javy Lopez, 34 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 22 SBs. Rockies - Todd Helton, .359 avg. and 115 runs; Preston Wilson, 31 HRs, 121 RBIs and 9 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Braves, 4-0.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - C Lopez has missed the last two games with a bruised left shin. … Both OF Sheffield and manager Bobby Cox were ejected in the first inning Friday for arguing a called strike. … RHP Tsao is 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts at Coors. Rockies - An MRI taken Friday showed no structural damage to Colorado LHP Darren Oliver’s bruised left foot. Oliver, struck by a line drive on Wednesday night, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday, which likely will determine if he will make his next start Tuesday. … 1B Helton is 7-for-14 with three doubles and three RBIs in his career against LHP Hampton. … The Rockies are 3-1 on their six-game homestand.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 37-27 on the road; Rockies - 44-20 at home.

INJURIES: Braves - C Lopez (shin), day-to-day; INF Julio Franco (finger), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Roberto Hernandez (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL. Rockies - C Bobby Estalella (elbow), 15-day DL; INF Mark Bellhorn (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Shawn Chacon (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Nelson Cruz (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Denny Neagle (elbow), 15-day DL; OF Chris Richard (shoulder), 60-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Hampton ARI vs. C. Tsao LAD
14-8 Record 3-3
3.84 ERA 6.02
110 K 29
78 BB 20
1.39 WHIP 1.57