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News » Astros-Cardinals Preview 2009-04-09

Astros-Cardinals Preview 2009-04-09

Astros-Cardinals Preview 2009-04-09
The Astros aren't expecting Mike Hampton to duplicate the dominance from his first stint with Houston but feel if he can revive his career and stay healthy, the club will have success.

Hampton is expected to make his first appearance with the Astros in a decade Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

The last time Hampton (3-4, 4.85 ERA) pitched for Houston (1-2), the right-hander went 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA to finish second to Randy Johnson in the 1999 NL Cy Young Award voting.

He then was traded to the New York Mets and spent only the 2000 season with them before Colorado signed Hampton to what is considered one of the worst free-agent contracts in history. He inked an eight-year, $121 million deal and went 21-28 in two seasons with the Rockies. He was acquired by Atlanta in 2003 and had two decent years before injuries began piling up.

Hampton missed most of 2005 with five stints on the disabled list, then was out all of 2006 (elbow surgery) and all of 2007 (torn flexor tendon). The 36-year-old left-hander has 141 career victories, but just eight in the past four years.

Still, the Astros were impressed enough with his 13-start performance for Atlanta last season that they signed Hampton to a one-year, $2 million contract hoping he can make 30 starts this year.

"More than any single thing that could help us win this year, it would be that. If he returns to form, we're going to be a dang good team," said slugger Lance Berkman, who hit one of Houston's five homers in Wednesday's 11-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Hampton hasn't made 30 starts since 2003, but Houston is counting on him to bolster a rotation that is shaky behind staff ace Roy Oswalt.

"I still feel I can help this organization win," said Hampton, who pitched for the Astros from 1994-99. "There's really no other place I'd want to do well than here. I hope I can recapture some of what I had here. I feel it hasn't left, I just haven't had a chance to show it very much."

After allowing 17 runs in 30 innings over eight spring training starts, Hampton is set to make just his second start against the Cardinals (2-2) since 2005.

He allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings of a 9-4 win over St. Louis for the Braves on July 31, but did not factor in the decision. He is 10-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 27 games - 22 starts - lifetime versus the Cardinals.

St. Louis defeated Pittsburgh 2-1 on Thursday, as Chris Carpenter took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and combined with two relievers on a one-hitter.

Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Brian Barden had RBI singles for the Cardinals, who went 8-7 versus the Astros last season and won four of six meetings at Busch Stadium.

Albert Pujols, who is 7-for-14 with a homer and two RBIs, hit .404 (21-for-52) with six home runs and 10 RBIs in 15 games against Houston last season. The reigning NL MVP is 7-for-21 with two home runs and three doubles lifetime versus Hampton.

The Cardinals counter with Joel Pineiro (7-7, 5.15), who has not won more than eight games in a season since going 16-11 for Seattle in 2003.

The right-hander did not face the Astros in 2008 and has not beaten them since June 23, 2002, when he pitched for Seattle. Pineiro is 1-3 with a 3.04 ERA in four career starts versus Houston.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 10, 2009

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