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News » Hampton, Astros warm up in the cold Lefty tosses 6 shutout innings in skid-ending win ASTROS: Hampton strikes out eight Pirates

Hampton, Astros warm up in the cold Lefty tosses 6 shutout innings in skid-ending win ASTROS: Hampton strikes out eight Pirates

Hampton, Astros warm up in the cold Lefty tosses 6 shutout innings in skid-ending win ASTROS: Hampton strikes out eight Pirates
Astros update

Wednesday: Astros 4, Pirates 1.

Record: 2-6.

Today: at Pittsburgh, 11:35 a.m.

Pitchers: Russ Ortiz (0-0) vs. Jeff Karstens (0-0).

TV/radio: FSH; 740 AM and 1010 AM (Spanish).

PITTSBURGH - The stands were full of empty seats, game-time temperatures were in the mid-40s, and a cold drizzle fell intermittently throughout the night. For the Astros , the conditions couldn't have been better.

Mike Hampton threw six scoreless innings, striking out eight batters and allowing four hits, to lead the Astros to a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night at PNC Park.

"It takes a little bit of the pressure off," manager Cecil Cooper said. "It was certainly nice to get some clutch hits early in the game to get us off the (losing streak) and get us going a little bit."

The victory snapped a five-game losing streak, with Hampton (1-1) winning his first game for the Astros since Oct. 3, 1999. His eight strikeouts were his most since he struck out eight on July 6, 2003, for Atlanta against Montreal.

"It was nice to get a lead early and go out there and pitch well and get a win for us," Hampton said. "It's just something I think we needed. Hopefully, it gives us some momentum, and we can continue."

Lee provides spark

Carlos Lee sparked the offensive awakening, driving in three runs to help the Astros to a 4-0 lead after three innings. They were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position, an improvement considering they're the worst team in Baseball in that department.

Miguel Tejada went 3-for-4 with two runs, and Lance Berkman went 2-for-4 as the Astros' second-through-fourth hitters were a combined 6-for-11. Hunter Pence drove in the other run.

"We got what we needed," Berkman said. "We got out of the chute early offensively, and it always helps when your pitcher throws six shutout (innings). Mike threw a great game, and really, that combination is what we needed because we haven't been scoring any runs, particularly early."

Michael Bourn, batting leadoff for the first time this season, led off the game with a walk, and Tejada and Berkman followed with singles to load the bases against Pittsburgh starter Russ Ohlendorf (0-2).

Lee and Pence followed with sacrifice flies to give the Astros a 2-0 lead, marking the first runs they had scored in the first inning this season. Lee's two-run double in the third made it 4-0.

"You never want to get too comfortable, because you want to continue to add on runs, and we want to develop a killer instinct, but I thought the Pirates did a good job of limiting the damage," Berkman said. "They turned it into more of a game than it should have been, but we'll take the win."

Hampton didn't allow more than one runner in an inning until giving up a pair of singles in the sixth. He threw 100 pitches (65 strikes) and had good control.

"Great effort by Hampton to keep them at bay early in the ballgame," Cooper said. "He did a great job, and a lot of times when you're struggling, you need to score early, and you need to have a pitcher go out and shut them down. I thought that's what he did tonight. If he pitches like that, I'll be a happy camper."

Scare for starter

Hampton did get a scare in the sixth when Pittsburgh catcher Ryan Doumit sent a fly ball to deep left field with two outs and two on. Lee raced back and made the catch at the wall near the 383-foot sign in PNC's massive left field.

"I was running on fumes a little bit and didn't want to walk him because that would put the tying run at the plate, and he almost got it," Hampton said. "He got pretty much all of it, and I thought it was probably gone when he hit it. I felt fortunate it did stay in the park."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 17, 2009

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