<
>

Hampton leaves in fifth; MRI scheduled

ATLANTA (AP) -- The sight of Mike Hampton limping off the mound
in the fifth inning overshadowed another victory by the Atlanta
Braves.

Hampton left an 8-1 win over the Montreal Expos on Saturday
night after feeling a pop in the knee when throwing a pitch.

"Hopefully, it's nothing major," said Hampton, who is
scheduled for an MRI on Monday.

Hampton said he has daily treatment on the knee, which "has
been sore for about two years."

But Hampton added: "I haven't felt it like this before. ...
When I threw, I felt it pop."

Pitching coach Leo Mazzone knows what the loss of Hampton would
mean to the Braves.

"It sure isn't going to help," Mazzone said. "He's a big-game
pitcher, too. He has meant a whole lot to us in our rotation."

Andruw Jones and Rafael Furcal each homered and pinch-hitter
Julio Franco capped a six-run seventh inning with a two-RBI double
as the Braves stretched their lead in the NL East to 8˝ games.

The Braves led only 2-1 before knocking Livan Hernandez (10-13)
out of the game in the seventh inning, when they sent 11 batters to
the plate.

Hampton, making his first start since Aug. 31 -- he skipped his
scheduled turn against Philadelphia Monday with a stiff neck -- gave
up four hits in 4 1-3 scoreless innings before he had to leave the
game. Hampton did not earn the win, but he lowered his earned run
average to 4.58. Hampton is tied for third on the team in wins with
11.

It appeared Hampton favored the knee after trying to beat out a
sacrifice in the bottom of the fourth, but he said that discomfort
"was nothing different than it has been for a while."

After he faced one batter in the fifth inning, assistant trainer
Jim Lovell and manager Bobby Cox visited Hampton on the mound.
Without even trying a practice pitch, Hampton headed to the dugout,
slightly favoring the left knee.

"We don't want to lose him," Cox said.

Depending on the severity of Hampton's injury, Atlanta might
have to rely on Jose Capellan, the Braves' top pitching prospect
who will make his major league debut Sunday, down the stretch.
Capellan was 14-4 in the minors this season.

Reliever Juan Cruz (5-2) took over for Hampton and gave up one
run in 1 2-3 innings.

After recording an out, Cruz gave up Brad Wilkerson's 28th
homer, just beyond the reach of Braves left fielder Charles Thomas,
pulling the Expos to 2-1.

Making his sixth start of the season against Atlanta, Hernandez
gave up 10 hits and seven runs while walking four batters in 6 1-3
innings. He set a season high by throwing 143 pitches.

Montreal manager Frank Robinson said Hernandez and a few other
pitchers are capable of throwing that many pitches, "but we just
don't let them. It can be done."

Hernandez is 0-10 in his last 12 regular-season starts against
the Braves, including 0-5 this season. His last win over Atlanta
came on Aug. 18, 2000, while with San Francisco.

"He's had no luck," Cox said. "We beat him one time on a
bunch of infield hits."

Furcal led off the seventh with a single and moved to second on
a sacrifice by Marcus Giles. After J.D. Drew walked, Chipper Jones
singled to left on a 3-2 pitch to drive in Furcal. Johnny Estrada
followed with a run-scoring double, pushing the lead to 4-1.

On Hernandez's final pitch, Adam LaRoche lined a two-run double
down the right field line, driving in Jones and Estrada for a 6-1
lead.

"I still felt good," Hernandez said, adding he didn't want to
come out of the game. "If you're a pitcher, you want to pitch,"
he said.

Montreal reliever Francis Beltran loaded the bases by hitting
Andruw Jones with a pitch and walking Thomas. Franco followed with
a two-run double to center.

Andruw Jones, who had two hits, gave the Braves a 1-0 lead with
his 26th homer in the second inning.

Furcal, back in the starting lineup following his second drunken
driving arrest in four years early Friday, led off the third inning
with his 13th homer, pushing the lead to 2-0.

Game notes
Expos CF Endy Chavez sat out for the second straight day
with a sore left shoulder. ... Estrada has been hit by 10 pitches
this season, the most of any Braves player. ... There was a pregame
tribute to the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001, and a moment of silence
for the victims of the attacks. The ceremonial first pitch was
"launched" from the USS John. F. Kennedy on the Turner Field
video screen.