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News » Astros-Braves Preview 2009-04-30

Astros-Braves Preview 2009-04-30

Astros-Braves Preview 2009-04-30
The Atlanta Braves acquired Mike Hampton after the 2002 season hoping for help at the front of their starting rotation, but his stint with the team ended on a sour note.

The Braves hope they have more luck with Derek Lowe as their ace.

Returning to Atlanta for the first time since signing with Houston in the offseason, Hampton will square off against Lowe as the Astros and Braves open a three-game series Friday night at Turner Field.

Atlanta (10-11) traded for Hampton before the 2003 season expecting to get one of baseball's most effective left-handed starters. While Hampton delivered in his first two seasons with the Braves, injuries then derailed his career.

Hampton made only 25 starts from 2005-2008 because of frequent elbow and back problems, and the Braves paid him $44.5 million during that stretch, according to the team's official Web site.

While fans at Turner Field could harbor some resentment toward Hampton, the Braves organization doesn't seem to have any hard feelings.

"He went through a lot during those years," manager Bobby Cox told the Braves' site. "He's a gamer. I like Mike a lot."

Jeff Francoeur is just as fond of Hampton, but that won't stop the Braves outfielder from trying to ruin Hampton's return.

"He was a great teammate and I wish him the best," Francoeur said. "I just hope that we can put it on him Friday night."

Hampton (1-1, 3.86 ERA) has gotten off to a solid start in his second stint with the Astros (9-13), with whom he went 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 1999. In his last outing Saturday, however, he was reached for a season-high four runs in six innings of Houston's 9-8, 11-inning loss to Milwaukee.

In his first season of a four-year, $60 million contract he signed over the winter, Lowe (2-1, 3.10) hasn't disappointed, either. The right-hander held Cincinnati to two runs and four hits while striking out a season-high eight in seven innings of a 10-2 road win Saturday.

Lowe, who's 2-3 with a 3.15 ERA in seven career starts against Houston, is holding opponents to a .229 batting average.

That doesn't bode well for an Astros team that managed only one hit in losing 3-0 to the Reds on Wednesday night. Houston's 78 runs this season are tied for second-fewest in the majors.

The Astros also struggled in the field Wednesday, with outfielders Carlos Lee and Michael Bourn colliding en route to an easy fly ball that dropped for a two-base error in the sixth inning. The runner went on to score.

"We were a little bit flat," manager Cecil Cooper said. "We made some mistakes defensively that we normally don't make."

The Braves didn't make any critical errors in the field Wednesday night but still fell victim to a big inning in their 5-3 loss to St. Louis. The Cardinals scored four runs in the fifth, when all six of their hits were singles.

"They had their seventh, eighth and ninth hitters up, and they all got bloopers," said Cox, who added that Atlanta starter Javier Vazquez "got blooped to death."

Atlanta and Houston split six games in 2008, and the Braves won two of three at Turner Field.

Hampton, who hasn't faced the Braves since his 2002 season with Colorado, is 4-9 with a 4.22 ERA lifetime against them.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 30, 2009

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