Hampton K's 8 over six shutout frames to lead Astros past Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Mike Hampton delivered a vintage performance.

The Houston left-hander pitched six shutout innings and the Astros snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

Hampton (1-1) allowed four singles, walked one and struck out eight.

"It was nice to go out there and pitch well and get a win for us," Hampton said. "It's something we needed. Hopefully, it gives us some momentum. We played a great game all-around tonight."

Hampton is looking to regain his old form in his second stint with the Astros following four injury-plagued seasons in Atlanta. The 36-year-old was limited to 25 starts from 2005-08 and missed the entire 2006-07 seasons.

Against Pittsburgh, he performed like the pitcher who went 22-4 for Houston in 1999 and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting.

Hampton threw 100 pitches, 65 for strikes, and didn't allow a runner to reach second base until the sixth.

"He was pretty good tonight," Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. "I don't know if his velocity is still the same, but he knows how to pitch. He got ahead in the counts, kept the ball down and had success."

Hampton improved to 11-3 in his career against Pittsburgh and has won seven consecutive starts against the Pirates dating back to 2000.

Wednesday's start was Hampton's first against Pittsburgh since September 7, 2003, when he was with the Braves. Just four Pirates batters had faced him before.

Those seeing him for the first time were impressed.

"All of his pitches were moving," said Pirates 1B Adam LaRoche, who homered and had two hits. "He was effectively wild. He's been around. He's know what he's doing. He was on his game."

Carlos Lee drove in three runs, Miguel Tejada had three hits and scored two runs, and Lance Berkman added two hits to help revive the Astros' struggling offense for at least a night.

Houston began the game with a major-league worst 16 runs scored this season, including shutouts in its past two games.

The Astros snapped an 18-inning scoreless streak with two runs in the first against Pittsburgh starter Ross Ohlendorf (0-2).

Michael Bourn walked on four pitches to start the game, and Tejada and Berkman singled to load the bases. Lee and Hunter Pence followed with back-to-back sacrifice flies.

Houston made it 4-0 in the third. Tejada led off with a single, Berkman doubled, and Lee followed with a two-run double.

"The at-bats were much better tonight," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. "We need to string hits together, and we did a good job, particularly early."

Berkman snapped an 0-for-10 streak with his two hits.

"We got what we needed early," he said. "It always helps when your pitcher throws six shutout innings. Mike did a great job. It's a combination that we needed."

Ohlendorf, who allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings, said he set a bad tone for the game by walking Bourn.

"I felt good warming up," he said. "I just wasn't able to locate my fastball well, right from the start."

Hampton, meanwhile, sailed through the first five innings before escaping trouble in the sixth.

Luis Cruz led off with a single. Nyjer Morgan and Freddy Sanchez struck out before Nate McLouth singled. Ryan Doumit then hit a deep fly ball that Lee caught at the left field wall.

"That was a case where I was running on fumes a little bit," Hampton said. "I thought it was gone when he hit it. I was fortunate it stayed in the park."

LaRoche gave the Pirates their only run when he led off the ninth with a homer off Jose Valverde.

LaRoche's homer was his third of the season and raised his batting average to .267, a positive sign for a player who entered the game with a .185 career batting average in March/April.

"It's still early," LaRoche said. "I'm not holding my breathe yet."

Game notes
Pirates SS Jack Wilson was scratched from the starting lineup about an hour before Wednesday's game with a bruised left middle finger. Wilson, who was replaced by Ramon Vazquez, had a pinch-hit single in the seventh. ... Pittsburgh 3B Andy LaRoche went 0-for-2 and now is hitless in 16 at-bats this season. ... McLouth had two hits and reached base three times for the Pirates. ... Berkman is 5-for-8 (.625) with a home run in his career against Ohlendorf.