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ATLANTA -- Thursday was a tough day for the Atlanta Braves. Not only were they forced to place left-hander Mike Hampton on the disabled list, but they also dropped a 4-3 extra inning affair to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"It's unbelievable that something else could pop up like that, but it did," said Braves Manager Bobby Cox of Hampton's latest set-back.
Hampton, who was scheduled to make his first start in two and a half years, strained his left pectoral muscle during pre-game his pre-game warm-up, roughly 20 minutes before game time. The Braves were forced to remove Hampton from the line-up and replace him with reliever Jeff Bennett.
"Nobody is more disappointed that I am," said Hampton. "Talking with the doctors, it's something that's minor and we don't want to take the chance of turning it into something that's major.
Umpires allowed the Braves a 10-minute grace period to allow Bennett to get warmed up. Bennett, who also worked in Wednesday's contest, threw 77 pitches over four innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out three.
Trailing 2-0, Atlanta put together a three-run bottom of the sixth inning, doing their damage against Pirates starter Zach Duke. Four singles and a costly error by Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson allowed the Braves to take a 3-2 lead. Matt Diaz and Corky Miller each collected run-scoring singles in the frame.
Pittsburgh came right back in the seventh inning agianst Will Ohman. Atlanta's defense had trouble as well. Martin Prado 's error and Miller's passed ball allowed Wilson to redeem himself with an RBI single to tie things at 3-3. Wilson was forced to leave the game for a pinch-runner after straining his calf on the play.
The Braves were forced to use Bennett and six relievers in place of Hampton, including an extremely unorthadox move in the 10th inning. After Chris Resop issued a pair of walks, the Braves found themselves running out of pitchers. With one out and two men on in a 3-3 tie, Cox summoned Royce Ring to face Adam LaRoche.
Rather than remove the righty Resop from the game, he moved the pitcher to left field, allowing him to come back into the contest after Ring faced the left-handed LaRoche. Diaz departed to allow Resop to take his place in left.
The move that nearly paid off. Ring came on to strike out LaRoche, paving the way for Resop to re-enter the game. However, Xavier Nady had other idaes.
With two outs in the inning, Nady singled off Resop to drive home Nyjer Wilson with the deciding run in Pittsburgh's 4-3 victory. Nady enjoyed an extremely productive series against Braves pitching. The Pirate outfielder went 6-for-14 for a .429 average with a pair of homers and seven RBI.
The Braves made the move to place Hampton on the 15-day disabled list immediately following the contest. Jo-Jo Reyes will be re-called from Triple-A Richmond to give the Braves another arm in what is becoming a weary bullpen. Cox plans to give Hampton's April 8 start to left-hander Chuck James, who will be activated from the disabled list in time to go against Colorado.
On Deck: The Braves begin a big series with the New York Mets on Friday. Tim Hudson will match up against John Maine. Game time is set for 7:30 PM EST.