Series: Game 3 of 3

Atlanta won 3-0

Game 1: Tuesday, June 3
Game 2: Wednesday, June 4
Game 3: Thursday, June 5

Rangers 4

(25-33, 11-19 away)

Braves 8

(40-19, 22-9 home)

    1:05 PM ET, June 5, 2003

    Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia 

    123456789 R H E
    TEX 030000100 4 8 0
    ATL 10003013 - 8 10 1

    W: J. Bong (5-0)

    L: A. Fultz (1-1)

    Hampton injured, relievers limit Rangers to one run

    ATLANTA (AP) -- Javy Lopez made sure he didn't have to run hard on his sore hamstring.

    Lopez trotted around the bases after hitting a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning, lifting the Atlanta Braves to an 8-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

    The Braves completed a sweep of the three-game series and extended Texas' season-high losing streak to six.

    Lopez, who had missed five straight games with an ailing right hamstring, led off the seventh by knocking a 0-1 pitch from Aaron Fultz (1-1) into the left-field stands.

    "I'm pretty impressed with myself," said Lopez, who is hitting .303 with 14 homers. "I'm locked in."

    Gary Sheffield also homered for the Braves, who overcame an injury shortened start for Mike Hampton. He left the game in the second with a strained groin, but six relievers limited the Rangers to only one run over the final 7 1-3 innings.

    Jung Bong (5-0) got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh after the Rangers tied it at 4 on a run-scoring double by Juan Gonzalez. Third baseman Vinny Castilla leaned into the stands to catch a foul popup, then Donnie Sadler flied out to center to end the inning.

    "We had a golden opportunity to open it up, but we couldn't take advantage of it," manager Buck Showalter said. Lopez put the Braves ahead for good with his 14th homer on a pitch that Fultz said "was supposed to be a slider, but it didn't slide very much." Atlanta poured it on in the eighth with three runs against R.A. Dickey. After two disappointing seasons, Lopez dropped 35 pounds and committed himself to regaining the form he showed as a two-time All-Star catcher.

    So far, all the hard work is paying off.

    "I always believed I was a better player than I was the last two years," Lopez said. "I came out this year with a totally positive mind."

    Sheffield homered for the second game in a row, a 419-foot driver over the center-field wall that gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the first. He has certainly emerged as an MVP candidate, batting .354 with 16 homers and 15 RBIs.

    "Same ol' Sheff," manager Bobby Cox said. "He does it every day."

    Hampton was charged with three runs during his brief appearance, but none of them was earned because of an error by shortstop Rafael Furcal to start the second.

    Furcal bobbled a grounder by Mark Teixeira, who came all the way around to score on Ryan Christenson's double. Todd Greene grounded out and Sadler walked before pitcher Victor Santos put down a sacrifice bunt.

    Hampton pulled up as the ball rolled toward the mound and first baseman Robert Fick had to get the out. Hampton left the game after a brief conversation with the trainer and Cox.

    "Normally, he would be all over that ball," the manager said. "He didn't even move. He said he could keep going, but I didn't see much sense in it."

    Hampton said he actually injured the groin in his last start, but thought he could get through it. The Braves aren't sure if he'll be able to make his next start.

    "I tried to put it out of my mind, but my mind was doing one thing and my body was doing another," he said. "I was hoping to stay out there, but Bobby is a great manager. If I stayed out there, it could have gotten worse."

    Hampton started the season on the disabled list with a strained right calf. He was activated April 19, but is still struggling to escape the shadow of two miserable seasons in Colorado.

    "Sooner or later, I have to step up," Hampton (2-3, 4.05 ERA) said.

    Trey Hodges, who replaced Hampton, allowed a two-run single to Hank Blalock that put the Rangers ahead 3-1.

    Santos, who was called up from the minors before the game, couldn't hold the lead. He went five innings, allowing six hits and four runs.

    "I was pretty happy with the way I pitched today," Santos said. "I wanted to be aggressive and keep the team in the game as well as I could."

    Lopez sparked a three-run outburst in the fifth with a leadoff single. Santos walked Darren Bragg, batting just .136 coming into the game, before pinch-hitter Matt Franco blooped a single to drive in a run.

    Furcal followed with an RBI single to left, tying the game at 3. Marcus Giles put the Braves ahead with a groundout that allowed Franco to trot home from third.

    Game notes

    Santos started in place of Joaquin Benoit, who went on the DL with soreness in his elbow. ... Rangers 1B Rafael Palmeiro was scratched from the lineup after his back stiffened up during batting practice. ... Braves CF Andruw Jones continues to be sidelined by several nagging injuries. He didn't start for the fourth game in a row. ... Furcal was thrown out attempting to steal for the first time this year. He had been successful on 11 straight attempts before being called out on a disputed play at third. TV replays showed Furcal got a hand on the bag before Blalock made the tag.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press