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Updated: Friday, October 1, 2004 8:10 PM EDT
MLB RECAP
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ATLANTA 5, CHICAGO CUBS 4
 

CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Thanks to Mike Hampton , the Atlanta Braves will have homefield advantage in the National League Division Series and the Chicago Cubs likely will just be home.

Hampton pitched six solid innings and smacked a two-run homer as the Atlanta Braves pushed the Cubs to the brink of playoff elimination with a 5-4 victory.

Dewayne Wise also hit a two-run homer for Atlanta (95-65), which can do no worse than tie current NL West Division leader Los Angeles (92-67). The Braves won their season series with the Dodgers, 4-3.

"We knew we needed a win coming in here and we got it," Wise said. "Home is good - it's better than going to San Francisco or L.A. or whatever."

"We are happy about that," said Braves manager Bobby Cox , who earned his 2,000th career victory Thursday. "We know we are opening at home. That's good - we know where we are going."

Chicago (88-72), which entered having lost five of seven games to the lowly New York Mets and Cincinnati, slipped 1 1/2 games behind wild card leaders Houston and San Francisco (89-70) with two games remaining.

The Cubs trailed, 5-1, entering the ninth before Ben Grieve rapped a two-run double off Chris Reitsma with one out and fellow pinch hitter Jose Macias followed with an RBI single off Kevin Gryboski . But Gryboski struck out Corey Patterson and retired Derrek Lee on a groundout to end the contest and post his second save of the season - both against the Cubs.

Chicago, which lost its fourth straight, slipped to 19-30 in one-run games this season. The Cubs' final two defeats to the Reds also were by one run.

"Everyone knew what was at stake," Grieve said. "To lose four in a row is difficult, so it's kind of slipping away."

Atlanta grabbed the lead for good against Kerry Wood (8-9) in the top of the second on Adam LaRoche 's leadoff single and Wise's one-out homer to center. LaRoche began the fourth with a single and Hampton connected on a two-out homer to left-center field, his second of the season, to increase the lead to 4-1.

"He's got a such an electric fastball and he gets a lot of guys to swing at it, so I was looking for it early in the at-bat," Hampton said of Wood. "He didn't want to walk me in that situation and I was lucky to put a good swing on it."

"Two two-run homers by the eight and nine hitter, how often do you see that?" Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "I haven't seen that in a long time."

Hampton (13-9) yielded one run and four hits to improve to 11-1 in his last 14 starts.

Wood surrendered five runs and 10 hits in seven innings. He had been 3-0 with a 1.99 ERA in six career regular-season games against Atlanta.

"We are a much better team than what we have showed this year," Wood said. "We just made things harder on ourselves than we needed too. So I'm surprised."


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