I expect Mike Hampton is happy. Hampton (who was booed) pitched 6 2/3 innings to get the win, and drew a key walk. It was a pretty familiar formula for Hampton, who allowed a bunch of baserunners — eleven hits! — but managed to strand most of them.
Hampton left the game with two on, two out in the seventh. He had no business being in the game at that point, having thrown 120 pitches, a bunch of them in the inning, and having allowed a run already. But Bobby actually wanted to keep him in the game! Leo Mazzone came out to talk to Hampton, who evidently told him what was evident to everyone else watching the game — that he had nothing left. Bobby was probably reluctant to bring in Trey Hodges, who was the only man ready in the bullpen. But whose idea was that? Hodges loaded the bases on a HBP (if the umpires paid any attention to the rules it wouldn’t have been — the guy swung his arm into the pitch) but got out with a strikeout. Kent Mercker pitched the eighth, and since it was the mystical save situation Smoltz pitched the ninth, striking out the side to end it.
All the Braves’ runs came in the fifth. With the score 3-0, Andruw homered leading off, then the Braves loaded the bases with one out on singles by Javy and Vinny and Hampton’s walk. Furcal hit a soft liner to score one, then Sheffield doubled to clear the bases. The Braves had the bases loaded again in the sixth, but couldn’t score — though Fick was called out at home on a fielder’s choice when it appeared he was safe.
Russ Ortiz, fly-ball pitcher (I’m just saying — he’s 1-2 with a 5.13 ERA in Coors Field the last three years, which isn’t too bad) goes tomorrow, looking for his 18th win… Everybody else in the division lost. The Braves’ magic number is 22. Of course, the other teams in the division (except the Mets, of course) are trying for the wildcard. That’s gotten completely insane. Four teams are within 2 1/2, eight teams (including the three NL Central contenders) within 4 1/2.