ATLANTA (AP)—Mike Hampton is pitching so well he doesn’t even mind returning to Colorado.
Hampton (11-5) is 8-0 over his last nine starts, but he’s been especially dominant in the past three appearances. The left-hander followed his first complete game of the season with two straight eight-inning stints, surrendering just 12 hits and three earned runs in 25 innings.
“He’s been lights out,” 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.”
Hampton lowered his ERA to 4.04—quite a change from last year. He had the highest ERA (6.15) among qualifying starters during the last of two miserable seasons with the Colorado Rockies.
His next start comes Saturday at Coors Field.
“I have every intention of pitching well there,” said Hampton, who was traded to the Braves during the offseason after flopping in the Mile High City. “I’m going to go in there with a confident mind frame that we’re going to win. And I’m not going to change the way I’ve done things this past month or so.”
The Diamondbacks noticed the change from last season.
“His cutter is a lot sharper this year,” manager Bob Brenly said. “That’s always been hit bread-and-butter pitch. Last year, for mechanical problems or whatever, he lost that pitch. It was very sharp today.”
On Sunday, the Braves had only two hits and struck out 15 times in a 2-0 loss to the Diamondbacks. The NL’s highest-scoring team finished off the four-game series with a more typical performance.
Two batters into the game, the Braves were ahead on Giles’ run-scoring double against Miguel Batista. Fick added an RBI single before the inning was done.
In the third, Giles walked and Chipper Jones singled before Fick came to bat with two outs. He worked the count full, then fouled off four straight pitches before lining a double down the right-field line on the 11th pitch of the at-bat. Both runners scored easily to give the Braves a 4-0 lead.
Fick came into the game mired in a 7-for-47 slide that included just one hit in his last 17 at-bats.
“I was really just battling up there,” he said. “I’ve not been swinging the bat too well, so I just wanted to keep my stroke short. I got lucky.”
The East-leading Braves won three of four from the Diamondbacks, hurting Arizona’s playoff chances. Atlanta scored 26 runs in its three victories.
“We didn’t help ourselves in this series,” said Luis Gonzalez, who homered for Arizona’s lone run.
Hampton’s only major trouble came in the fourth. Gonzalez led off with a 395-foot drive to center for his 22nd homer, then Steve Finley and Raul Mondesi hit consecutive singles with one out. Junior Spivey hit a liner up the middle, but shortstop Mark DeRosa made a diving catch and flipped to Giles at second for an inning-ending double play.
Sheffield kept a career-high hitting streak going in the fifth, driving his 31st homer of the season into the left-field seats. Giles went deep in the seventh, his 17th homer accounting for Atlanta’s final run on a sweltering afternoon at Turner Field.
Sheffield’s hitting streak is the longest by an Atlanta player since Marquis Grissom had 28 straight in 1996.
Batista (7-7) matched a season high by giving up five runs in five innings.He lost for the fourth time in five decisions.
Giles has 40 doubles, one short of Chipper Jones’ Atlanta record set in 1997 and equaled two years later. … Braves 1B Julio Franco went on the 15-day disabled list after injuring the middle finger of his left hand in a freak accident before the game. An 80-pound barbell rolled on his finger in the weight room, fracturing the finger and causing cut that needed four stitches to close. The Braves called up Mike Hessman from Triple-A Richmond to take Franco’s place. … Diamondbacks P Curt Schilling iced his left knee, which stiffened up during the eighth inning of his start Sunday. He was able tofinish the inning, and no one has any idea why the knee gave him problems.