Hampton allowed four hits over seven innings in his second strong start since coming off the disabled list and Chipper Jones drove in four runs as the Atlanta Braves beat the Astros 11-1 Wednesday night.
“I’ve got some really good friends over there and it’s fun to face them,” said Hampton, who pitched for the Astros from 1994 through 1999. “I’ve been gone for three years, but I still keep in touch with them. Between the lines, though, I will battle them.”
Jones doubled twice and Gary Sheffield homered, doubled and drove in three runs. The Braves won for the 13th time in 15 games and earned their sixth straight road victory.
“He’s still a good friend and I’ll see him after the game, but we won’t talk much about this,” Astros star Jeff Bagwell said. “We knew pretty early that we were going to have to beat him away, either hit it to right or hit it out because he wasn’t giving us much inside.”
Hampton (1-1), who pitched for the Astros from 1994 through 1999, finally got run support from the Atlanta offense that had given him only two runs in each of his first two starts. They had 13 hits against three Astros pitchers.
The left-hander allowed one run, walked one and struck out two.
“Hampton was absolutely great, that’s the best I’ve seen him,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “The last two times he’s been out he’s been terrific. He’s a great athlete who helps himself.”
Hampton was activated April 19 after recovering from a strained right calf and allowed two hits over six innings in his last start against St. Louis. He lost his first game to Philadelphia.
“That’s the best I’ve felt in a long, long time,” Hampton said. “I was comfortable out there and I was keeping the ball down in the zone. I lived outside. I threw a few four seamers and sinkers and mixed in some changeups and lives down and away.”
His only mistake was a solo homer by Morgan Ensberg into the short left field Crawford box seats.
“With that short porch, if you make a mistake up, like I did to Ensberg, it can hurt you,” Hampton said. “If they beat me, they were going to have to beat me down and away.”
Jones had an RBI double in the fourth inning and drove in three runs with another double in the five-run sixth. Sheffield also had an RBI single and the fifth run scored when Brandon Puffer hit Marcus Giles with a pitch with the bases loaded.
Sheffield hit his seventh homer in the eighth off Bruce Chen.
Wade Miller (0-3) failed to get a victory in his sixth start of the season.
Miller, who tied for the major league lead with a 12-game winning streak last year, kept the Braves in check until he ran into control problems in the fourth inning and walked two as Atlanta took a 3-0 lead.
Vinny Castilla hit into double play before Javy Lopez got an infield hit and Hampton, who led major league pitchers with a .344 average last year, singled home the third run. It was Hampton’s first hit of the season.
The Braves got two more runs off Miller in the fifth on Sheffield’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Andruw Jones.
“He (Hampton) told me to just go after the hitters and keep it down,” Miller said. “That’s my problem. I can’t keep it down. I’ve been working on it between starts so I’m just out of sync. I’m just not locating it properly.”
Hampton didn’t allow a hit until Ensberg’s second homer of the season with one out in the fourth inning.
Miller pitched five innings, allowed eight hits, five runs, all earned. Hewalked two and struck out two.
Struggling Lance Berkman, moved from fourth to fifth in batting order on Tuesday, dropped to No. 6 on Wednesday. The new lineup has Jeff Kent batting fourth and Richard Hidalgo moving up to No. 5. … Berkman dropped to a .158batting average (3-for-19) against lefties.