PITTSBURGH -- If only Mike Hampton could face the Pittsburgh Pirates in every start, he might regain the form that allowed him to be one of the National League's best pitchers a decade ago.
Hampton continued his mastery over Pittsburgh, allowing only one run in seven innings in Houston's 2-1 win on Sunday afternoon.He became only the second pitcher to win eight in a row against the Pirates since 1954, improving to 12-3 lifetime against Pittsburgh. Only the Braves' Tom Glavine has had a streak that long against the Pirates in the past 55 years."I've played for so many teams and faced so many different lineups," Hampton said. "It'd been so long since I faced them [prior to his previous start against Pittsburgh in April] and the lineup turned over and there's a lot of new guys. I don't think there's anything to it other than I was fortunate enough today to make quality pitches and the defense played great behind me."Miguel Tejada and Humberto Quintero each went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Astros, who took two of three from Pittsburgh after arriving in here on a seven-game losing streak."Hampton was very good today," Quintero said. "He threw everything for strikes. He threw sinkers, fastballs inside, sliders and changeups for strikes. I give credit to Hampton today. He won the game for us."Chris Sampson retired the side in order in the eighth and LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his sixth save and first since May 14.Nate McLouth homered for the Pirates, who have lost four of five.Tejada -- who extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a first-inning double -- drove in the winning run with a bloop single into shallow right-center in the seventh. It was the third consecutive single of the inning for Houston, scoring Hampton to break a 1-1 tie.McLouth led off the bottom of the first with a homer to right, his team-high ninth of the season and fourth time in his career he led off the first with a home run.But from that point on, Hampton (3-4) outdueled Paul Maholm by allowing only three baserunners. Hampton retired 19 of the final 21 batters he faced -- including the final 10."I just told myself to wipe the slate clean [after the McLouth homer] and, 'Let's go. There's nothing you can do about it,' " said Hampton, who was 63-31 from 1997-2000 but has generally struggled and battled injuries since. "That's the way I approached the rest of the game."Hampton threw 90 pitches in his seven innings -- the longest he had gone in a game since Sept. 18 of last season. He hadn't pitched seven innings and earned a win since Aug. 5."I'd like to sit here and say we struggled offensively and didn't get hits," Pirates manager John Russell said. "And we didn't. But the guy threw a good game at us. If you can locate your offspeed in and out, it's tough to hit."Houston's first run came in the second, when Quintero singled in Lance Berkman.Maholm (3-2) was charged with both Houston runs -- one earned -- on eight hits and two walks in seven innings, striking out four.He hasn't won since April 22 and lost at home for the first time since Aug. 30."It's good to get deep into the game," Maholm said. "There were some groundballs that got through. I think I battled and gave the team a chance to win, but it seems that those 1-2-3 innings just aren't there."It was one of those days where... Hampton had it. It was tough to get something going against him."
Hampton is scheduled to face Pittsburgh in his next start, Friday in Houston -- also against Maholm. ... Glavine's eight-game winning streak against the Pirates was from July 29, 1991 to July 25, 1993. ... McLouth is one of only two Pirates players to homer off a left-hander yet this season. He has three, and Craig Monroe has two. ... For only the second time in the past 21 games, a Pirates catcher did not reach safely. Robinzon Diaz went 0-for-3.