Braves 3, Mariners 1
SEATTLE (AP)—Mike Hampton stepped into a big setting, shrugged off his recent layoff and came out looking fabulous.
Slowed by a sore groin that kept him from making his last scheduled start, Hampton pitched two-hit ball into the eighth inning for his first victory in more than a month and the Atlanta Braves beat the Seattle Mariners 3-1 Saturday.
“He pitched really good,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “He threw a lot of strikes and groundballs, and he had a lot of sinking action on the ball. He had a long layoff with those leg problems, but he threw strikes.”
The Braves snapped a seven-game winning streak by Seattle starter Jamie Moyer, who left with one out in the eighth after allowing an RBI double by Andruw Jones that made it 3-0. Gary Sheffield, who hit a one-out double, scored on the play.
It’s been a fun series for the fans—and the players.
“They’ve got a great crowd, incredible fans who have duplicated a World Series or playoff atmosphere,” said John Smoltz, who got his major league-leading 26th save in 27 opportunities.
“It’s nice to play in June to a sold-out stadium in a big atmosphere with two teams that have the best records.”
Hampton (3-3) hadn’t won since May 11, beating San Francisco 7-3. After that, he spiraled into a five-game stretch during which he went 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA over 23 1-3 innings.
He left his last start June 5 against the Texas Rangers without a decision and missed his next one because of the groin problem. But Hampton was surprised to find the injury helped his mechanics.
“It might have been a blessing in that I was able to slow down a little bit, not rush too much,” he said. “Sometimes, I get into a bad habit of rushing, but today I was able to stay in a pretty good rhythm.”
Smoltz took over with no outs and the bases loaded in the eighth, only the second time this season he pitched two innings. The other came April 13 at Florida.
“It was set up for other guys to get a couple of outs and then for me to come in, but it just didn’t work out,” Smoltz said.
Hampton was finished after walking Dan Wilson leading off the eighth, the third free pass issued by the left-hander.
That’s when Seattle made things interesting.
“My job was to limit the damage,” Smoltz said. “I did the next best thing and held them to one run against, really, the heart of their lineup.”
Mariners manager Bob Melvin said: “That’s not an easy situation to come in on, with the bases loaded and no one out. But if there’s anyone you can bring into that situation, it’s him.”
“It was a bonehead play,” Cameron said. “Even if I stole it, we’ve still got to score two runs against a tough closer.”
Moyer (10-3) went 7 1-3 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs. His four walks equaled a season high, but his 10 victories still lead the majors.
“I wasn’t as consistent as I wanted to be,” Moyer said. “You have to be aggressive in and out of the strike zone against a ballclub like this.”
He hadn’t faced the Braves since 1988, his third year in the majors, when he pitched for the Cubs. He threw a career-high 9 1-3 innings against Atlanta butlost 3-0 on May 24, 1988, in Chicago.
The Mariners are 20-6 against left-handed starters while the Braves improved to 14-2, tops in baseball. … Suzuki extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single on Hampton’s third pitch. … Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, touring major league cities to publicize a prostate cancercharity, was on hand and joked with Cox during batting practice.