ATLANTA (AP)—Gary Sheffield avoided those nasty inside pitches and looked for something over the plate.
“The last couple of weeks, everybody’s been coming inside off the plate to me, and I’d been swinging at it,” Sheffield said. “I don’t know how many balls I hit foul that would have been home runs.”
He finally straightened out those foul balls.
Sheffield broke out of a 1-for-14 slump by tying a career high for hits, and his homer in the fifth inning was his first since June 27, a span of 58 at-bats. He added a three-run shot in the eighth off Graeme Lloyd and scored four runs.
Hampton (6-5) went seven strong innings a game after Greg Maddux pitched his first complete game in two years. He retired the first seven batters, pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the third, then set down the last five batters he faced.
“It was just fluctuating a little bit of the speed and keeping the ball down,” Hampton said. “It’s tough as a hitter to hit a pitch when you don’t know if it’s 82 (mph) or 87.”
Javy Lopez went 2-for-4 and drove in five runs for the Braves, who have won 11 of 12. They improved the best record in the majors to 63-32, their best 95-game start ever.
Left fielder Chipper Jones left the game after the sixth inning when he aggravated a left wrist injury on a check swing. He’s day-to-day.
The Mets tied a season high with five errors, including two by left fielder Cliff Floyd in the first inning, and lost for the eighth time in their past nine games. At 40-55, they’re a season-worst 15 games under .500.
“It means nothing at all,” Wigginton said of his three hits. “They put it to us. I imagine Sheffield is celebrating over on the other side.”
Jae Weong Seo (5-6) struggled for the second straight start against Atlanta and left after only four innings. He gave up five runs—four earned—on five hits and three walks. Last week in New York, he gave up six runs in six innings in a 7-3 loss to the Braves.
After the game, New York manager Art Howe suggested that Seo might need to develop another pitch besides his fastball and slider.
“For the time being, I’m going to stick with what I have,” Seo said through an interpreter. “When the offseason comes, maybe I can sift through things and make some adjustments. I don’t think I will be making major changes in my pattern.”
Atlanta jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first, helped by Floyd’s errors. With one out, Mark DeRosa walked, moved to second on a single by Sheffield, then scored on a single by Jones.
Andruw Jones singled to drive home Sheffield, and when Floyd bobbled the ball, Chipper Jones moved to third. After Robert Fick walked, Lopez brought home Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones with a single to left, and again, Floyd had trouble fielding the ball cleanly.
This time, Fick moved to third on the error, but Seo got Vinny Castilla to hit into a double play.
“In the back of my mind, I was telling myself to be cautious,” Floyd said. “Those plays have to be made.”
In the fifth, Sheffield hit a 410-foot homer to left-center off relieverPedro Feliciano.
The Mets recalled right-handed pitcher Edwin Almonte from Triple-A Norfolk before the game. To make room for him, the Mets optioned outfielder Prentice Redman to Norfolk. Almonte pitched the seventh inning and gave up a run on two hits. … Atlanta 2B Marcus Giles missed his fourth straight start with a concussion, but could return to the lineup Saturday. He took batting practice before the game, then lined out to left as a pinch-hitter in theeighth.