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Braves bats best Hampton, Houston
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ATLANTA — Jeff Francoeur hit a two-run homer and drove in another run to help the Braves beat the Houston Astros 7-2, spoiling Mike Hampton’s return to Atlanta on Friday night.

Hampton signed with the Astros after six years with the Braves, where he battled a long series of injuries and was able to appear in more than 13 games twice.

Hampton (1-2) drew loud boos in pregame warmups, before each of his two at-bats and as he was removed from the game in the decisive fifth inning. He gave up five hits and six runs in 4 1-3 innings.

Derek Lowe (3-1) allowed eight hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings.

The game was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 2 minutes after the seventh inning.

Omar Infante and Yunel Escobar each had two hits and drove in two runs as the Braves scored more than four runs for only the third time in 16 games.

Francoeur, hitting cleanup for the first time this season, lined a two-run homer to left off Hampton in the first. He added a run-scoring single off Geoff Geary in the fifth after Hampton loaded the bases with an intentional walk to Chipper Jones.

Infante had a two-run single and Escobar drove in another run with a double in the fifth. Escobar was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Hunter Pence on Francoeur’s single.

The Braves’ regular cleanup hitter, catcher Brian McCann, is on the disabled list due to blurred vision. McCann has ended an experiment with new contact lenses and said Friday he will try to play with new glasses.

Escobar’s seventh-inning single off Jeff Fulchino drove in Brandon Jones, who walked as a pinch-hitter.

Hampton made only 25 starts from 2005-2008 because of frequent elbow and back problems. He missed the 2006 and 2007 seasons and then made only 13 starts in 2008, when he was 3-4 with a 4.85 ERA.

Michael Bourn had three hits, including a first-inning triple. He scored on Lance Berkman’s groundout. The Astros added another run in the fourth when Pence walked, moved to third on a single by Ivan Rodriguez and scored on Hampton’s grounder.

Each center fielder had strong defensive plays in the second inning. Atlanta’s Jordan Schafer made a diving catch of Rodriguez’s liner in right-center. Bourn caught a drive by Clint Sammons before crashing into the center-field wall.Notes: Two Houston team doctors successfully drained 40 cubic centimeters of fluid from RHP Jose Valverde’s right calf on Friday, one day after he had 20 cubic centimeters of fluid removed. Valverde’s expected recovery time is three to five weeks. ... Astros manager Cecil Cooper said RHP Felipe Paulino will move to the bullpen when RHP Brian Moehler returns from the disabled list to start on Tuesday at Washington. ... Jason Smith grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, extending to 20 his string of at-bats without a hit this season, the longest in the majors.

More to come

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