Astros 6, Nationals 3

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Mike Hampton had to wait a few extra minutes to make his first start for the Houston Astros in a decade.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Houston's spring training opener against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, and the pause for photos caused about a 15-minute delay.

Hampton feigned annoyance.

"I mean, I might wait for the president, but come on," he said.

When the 36-year-old lefty finally threw his first pitch, the rust showed. The first three Washington hitters reached on two walks and a hit batter, but Hampton quickly found his form in Houston's 6-3 victory before 1,973 fans at 5,300-seat Osceola County Stadium.

Hampton, a 22-game winner for the Astros in 1999 before they traded him, escaped that bases-loaded jam with a strikeout and a double play en route to two scoreless innings on 33 pitches.

"Mike heated up one time, then he had to step back and then do it again, so that could have affected him a little bit," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. "I thought Mike seemed to be a little bit tentative early, missing the zone a little bit. But then after those first three hitters, he looked real sharp. Second inning was really easy and nice."

Houston hopes that Hampton, who has made only 25 starts over the past four years due to various injuries, can pair with ace Roy Oswalt to give the Astros the potent 1-2 punch their rotation has lacked the last few seasons.

"It's nice to get the first one over with," Hampton said. "Everybody wants to go and put up zeros. But the most important thing is to get comfortable with your mechanics, get into good arm slots and find some consistency."

Nationals starter John Lannan matched Hampton with two scoreless innings and didn't allow a hit.

"I think that's one of the things that helps him the most, he doesn't show his emotions and he's very cold-blooded," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "He's had some rough outings over the last year and a half and still he goes out there five days later and doesn't show any effect from it."

Most of the stars were missing from the opener. The Astros rested first baseman Lance Berkman, outfielder Carlos Lee and shortstop Miguel Tejada, while Washington first baseman-outfielder Adam Dunn and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman didn't make the trip to Kissimmee.

"No one is ready, not only in Nats' camp, but in everybody else's camp," Acta said. "The first couple of games are basically just a tryout for the guys."

Lastings Milledge was one of the few starters on the field for the Nationals. Acta has already said Milledge is the starter in center field, which has given the 23-year-old a boost this spring. Milledge was 0-for-1 with a walk.

"I just want to be a guy that gets on base, scores a lot of runs and steals a lot of bases," said Milledge, who hit .268 with 61 RBIs last season, his first full year in the majors. "That's going to be my role this year and getting on in scoring position in front of Zimmerman and Adam Dunn."

Chris Johnson homered, Drew Sutton had two hits and scored twice, and Reggie Abercrombie doubled in a pair of runs for the Astros. Geoff Geary got the win in relief.

Gary Glover took the loss for the Nationals after allowing a run in the fifth.

Game notes
Oswalt is scheduled to start Thursday against Atlanta. He will leave Astros camp this weekend to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic. ... Count Nationals OF Austin Kearns among the players who think spring training is too long. "Nobody needs the full time, six or seven weeks," Kearns said. "But I'd say I need about three weeks to be ready to go." ... Houston owner Drayton McLane introduced Crist, and former Astros player Jose Cruz caught the pitch, a one-bouncer to the plate. ... A pair of relievers on either side got roughed up late in the game. Former closer Danny Graves allowed two runs and four hits in an inning for the Astros. Mike Hinckley gave up three runs and four hits in an inning of work for the Nationals.