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Braves keep finding new ways to lose

POSTED: July 30, 2008 5:02 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Yunel Escobar misplays a ball during the Braves 10-9 loss to the Phillies on Saturday in Philadelphia.

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PHILADELPHIA — Mike Hampton waited 1,072 days to return to the major leagues, so he won’t dwell on wasting a six-run lead.

Pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs delivered a three-run homer in a seven-run fifth inning and the Philadelphia Phillies rallied past the Atlanta Braves 10-9 Saturday to spoil Hampton’s first start in nearly three years.

Making his first appearance since Aug. 19, 2005, Hampton couldn’t protect a 9-3 cushion. The two-time All-Star overcame two major operations on his left elbow and an assortment of other injuries to finally make it back.

“It’s a great feeling to be back, but it’s bittersweet,” Hampton said. “I didn’t do enough to help the team win. It’s something to grow on.”

Chris Coste was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, helping the struggling Phillies get their first win since falling out of first place in the NL East after a 53-day stay atop the standings.

Mark Teixeira hit a three-run homer during Atlanta’s nine-run fourth inning, but the Braves lost their 25th straight one-run game on the road.

Adam Eaton (4-8) pitched a scoreless inning to get the win in his third career relief appearance. Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin and J.C. Romero each pitched a scoreless inning, and Brad Lidge finished for his 23rd save in 23 chances.

Cole Hamels lasted just 3 2-3 innings, allowing nine runs — four earned — and six hits in his shortest outing since last Sept. 18.

“If we lose, I would think about it a lot, but the team stepped up and did a tremendous job,” Hamels said.
Hampton gave up six runs and eight hits in four-plus innings. The 35-year-old left-hander threw 91 pitches. He left after Chase Utley’s single loaded the bases with none out in the fifth.

Ryan Howard greeted Royce Ring with a two-run single. Blaine Boyer (2-6) came in to face Pat Burrell, who hit a sacrifice fly to cut it to 9-6. Coste’s two-out RBI single made it 9-7.

Dobbs followed with a drive into the second deck in right field to give the Phillies a 10-9 lead. It was his 20th pinch hit this season, tying Doc Miller’s club record set in 1913.

“I was just trying to keep the inning going,” Dobbs said.

Dobbs credits former utilityman Dave Hansen for helping him become a successful pinch hitter. Dobbs spent parts of two seasons with Hansen in Seattle from 2004-05. Hansen had 138 career pinch hits in a 15-year career.

“I was fortunate to be around him and he taught me a lot of valuable things,” Dobbs said. “He was one of the best. He was kind enough to tutor me.”

Hamels had allowed one run in two starts against Atlanta this season, including a shutout on May 15. He had a 3-0 lead and seemed on his way to another strong performance until the fourth.

Yunel Escobar walked to start the inning, Teixeira singled and Brian McCann walked to load the bases. Omar Infante doubled in two runs and Jeff Francoeur’s sacrifice fly tied it at 3.

Then the defense fell apart.

Martin Prado reached on second baseman Utley’s fielding error and Mark Kotsay singled in Infante for a 4-3 lead. Hampton hit a bouncer near the mound that should’ve been an inning-ending double play. But Hamels’ throw to second base sailed into center field and Prado scored.

Gregor Blanco’s infield hit scored Kotsay. After Escobar flied out, Teixeira connected for his 20th homer. His shot to left-center put the Braves up 9-3 and ended Hamels’ afternoon.

Hamels had pitched at least seven innings in 18 of his 21 starts this season.

Coste lined a two-run single to left-center to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead in the second. Utley’s sacrifice fly scored Shane Victorino, who tripled, to make it 3-0 in the third.

Hampton missed the 2006 season recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery and opened the 2007 season on the disabled list with a left oblique injury. He then learned he had a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow, leading to another season-ending surgery.

Hampton earned a spot as the No. 4 starter this spring before straining his left pectoral muscle while warming up before his scheduled April 3 start in Atlanta. He aggravated the chest injury in the minor leagues before injuring his left groin.

“His sinker was good and he kept the ball down,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “He was fine.”



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