ATLANTA (AP)—The Atlanta Braves are back in a familiar place—first place in the NL East all by themselves.
Atlanta’s overall record is still just 49-43, but it’s enough to give the Braves sole possession of the division lead for the first time this season.
It’s a familiar position for a team that has won 13 straight division titles. Still, it’s a little surprising to find the Braves in first after they went on a major salary purge during the last offseason, losing Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux and Vinny Castilla.
The Phillies and World Series champion Florida Marlins were supposed to be the new powers in the East, but it appears that first in this division still goes through a familiar place—Atlanta.
Hampton has given up 19 runs in the first—more than any other inning—but he quickly settled down. The Phillies managed only one hit over the next five innings, a stretch of domination that ended with Jim Thome’s monstrous homer over the center-field fence leading off the seventh.
The Phillies threatened to get back in the game when Jason Michaels walked and David Bell followed with a single, putting runners at first and second with one out. But Mike Lieberthal hit into an inning-ending double play.
On the mound, Hampton pumped his fist and let out a yell after Chipper Jones started the around-the-horn double play.
Smoltz went the rest of the way for his second two-inning save of the season. He struck out four—Rickey Ledee reached on a passed ball in the ninth — and put runners on first and third before getting Bell to line out for his 18th save in 20 chances.
In the second, LaRoche doubled in a run and came home on Andruw Jones’ single—the slumping outfielder’s first RBI since July 7. The Braves made it 3-1 in the fourth on Thomas’ run-scoring single up the middle, and Chipper Jones lined an RBI double to right in the fifth.
Phillies starter Paul Abbott dropped to 0-4 since joining Philadelphia. He started the season with Tampa Bay, going 2-5 before getting his release on June 3.
Abbott allowed eight hits and four runs in 4 2-3 innings. He’s lost two straight to the Braves, also getting the loss in Hampton’s 4-0 win on July 10.
In what is becoming a daily occurrence, Thomas made another spectacular play in the field, too. The left fielder made a diving catch on Rollin’s soft flyball in the sixth.
Andruw Jones chipped in with a belly flopper of his own to end the eighth.
Hampton has surrendered 11 homers this season, but Thome’s was the first by a left-handed hitter. … The Phillies have yet to win a series against the other top teams in the NL East. They are 8-19 against Atlanta, Florida and the New York Mets. … Thomas had the first stolen base of his major league career in the fourth. … Atlanta’s J.D. Drew extended his career-best hitting streak to 16 games with a fifth-inning single. … Philadelphia RHP Ryan Madson pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings, stretching his streak without giving up a run to 21.