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Braves end 5-game skid

POSTED: August 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Atlanta Braves' Clint Sammons follows through with a two-run home run in the rain in the sixth inning Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals in Atlanta. The hit was Sammons' first Major League home run.

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ATLANTA — The hometown guy helped the Atlanta Braves snap a five-game losing streak.

No, it wasn’t Brian McCann or Jeff Francoeur.

Rookie catcher Clint Sammons homered and drove in three runs to lead Atlanta past the St. Louis Cardinals 9-4 on Thursday night, a much-needed boost for a team that was having a terrible week.

Sammons, called up from the minors on Monday, picked up the first RBI of his fledgling big league career in the fourth, singling in a run that tied the game at 3.

Two innings later, he put the Braves ahead to stay with his first homer, a two-run shot over the wall in left to put the Braves ahead for good.

“That’s something I’ll remember forever,” said Sammons, who added another hit in the eighth and scored the Braves’ final run. “To hit a homer that gives us a lead, which we’ve not had a lot of lately, is certainly a great memory. That’s probably the best ball I’ve hit all year.”

Born and raised in suburban Atlanta, Sammons was a high school teammate of Francoeur’s and went on to play at the University of Georgia. He was called up from Triple-A Richmond after McCann, yet another product of the Atlanta area, was sidelined with a concussion.

Known more for his defense, Sammons smiled when someone asked if he’s become a home-run threat.
“I may hit a few, but it’s not going to happen too often,” he said.

The Braves were eager for some levity after losing ace Tim Hudson to possible season-ending surgery, placing Chipper Jones on the disabled list and trading slugger Mark Teixeira, conceding they no longer have any hopes of contending this season.

“This is something the team really needed after the last five or six games,” Sammons said. “Hopefully it will give us a boost going into August and September.”

Atlanta’s Omar Infante had three hits and two RBIs, including a homer leading off the second.

St. Louis failed to complete a four-game sweep of the Braves and fell five games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, tied for second with Milwaukee.

“It’s good winning three out of four,” Cardinals shortstop Cesar Izturis said.

Mike Hampton got off to a shaky start in the second appearance of his comeback, giving up two-run double to Albert Pujols in the first.

The left-hander settled down and was actually in position for his first win since 2005 when his second RBI of the game gave the Braves a 4-3 lead. But Hampton couldn’t get through his final inning, surrendering a two-out, run-scoring single to Ryan Ludwick that knocked the Atlanta starter out of a decision.

Hampton, who missed the last two seasons and much of this one recovering from various injuries, gave up seven hits and four runs in five innings. He walked four and didn’t strike out anyone.

“The competitor in me wants to be perfect right away,” Hampton said. “But I know it’s going to take a little time. I was a little more confident this time.”

Jeff Bennett (2-4) picked up the win with two scoreless innings.

Hampton, one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers when he actually makes it to the field, provided a boost to an Atlanta lineup that’s severely short-handed without Teixeira, Jones and McCann, who missed his fourth straight game while recovering from a collision at home plate last weekend.

“It’s nice to have him in the lineup,” said Sammons, who batted just ahead of the pitcher.

The Braves roughed up St. Louis starter Joel Pineiro (3-5) for 10 hits and six runs in six innings, then put it out of reach with two runs in the seventh off Kevin Jimenez. Mark Kotsay doubled in a run and Infante closed his big night with another RBI double into the left-field corner.

After going 2-2 in April, Pineiro has one win in the last three months.

“I’m not pitching the way I should be pitching,” he said. “I let my team down and myself down.”

Added manager Tony La Russa, “He makes good pitches and gets good hitters out, and then he makes mistakes.”

St. Louis was out-hit 15-8 but came through in the clutch against Hampton. Pineiro drove in a run with a two-out double in the fourth, and Ludwick responded in the same situation.

Hampton had a two-out hit in the second, doubling to the wall in right-center to make it 2-2. He drove in another run in the fourth by hustling to beat out a potential double-play grounder.

Notes: Hampton’s double was his first since April 17, 2005. ... Casey Kotchman, acquired from the Angels in the deal for Teixeira, went 0-for-4 and is hitless in nine at-bats with Atlanta. ... Pineiro dropped to 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in four career appearances against the Braves. ... LHP Chuck James will come up Friday to start the opener of a three-game series against Milwaukee. The Braves have yet to announce whose spot he’ll take.



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