It’s no coincidence that the Atlanta Braves have compiled a mediocre record during the first two months of the season while left-hander Mike Hampton has suffered through the worst start of his career.
With Hampton apparently back on track, the Braves are hoping to climb above .500 for the first time since April 4 as they resume a four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Winless in his first eight starts, Hampton was outstanding Sunday, pitching six scoreless innings, homering and making two fine defensive plays to lead the Braves past Los Angeles 5-1.
“It’s big,” said Hampton, who won for the first time since last Sept. 17. “The stat sheet still looks pretty ugly, but you can’t win your second without that first win.”
Hampton also homered in his last win. He has 13 career homers—the most among active pitchers.
The left-hander has pitched well in his last two starts. He allowed two runs in a complete-game effort against Arizona on May 18, but was an afterthought as Randy Johnson threw the 17th perfect game in major league history.
“I didn’t think I had been throwing the ball that poorly. It was always one big inning or one big hit,” Hampton said Sunday. “I was due for some good luck. I got some today.”
The Braves are hoping to build on Thursday’s 6-1 victory over the Phillies. Atlanta has won four of five to improve to .500 for the first time since it was 13-13 on May 5.
Winners of 12 straight division titles, the Braves are fourth in the NL East, the latest in a season they’ve been this low in the standings since May 1990, when they were in the NL West.
Philadelphia is 2-3 in its last five and has fallen a game behind Florida for the division lead.
The Phillies have been held to one run or fewer in two of the last three games. The offensive drought comes after a 10-game stretch during which they averaged seven runs per game, and a 25-game streak when they scored at least four runs per contest.