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Hampton pitches Astros past Pirates

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HOUSTON (AP)

The Pittsburgh Pirates held a special hitters meeting before Monday night's game to talk about how to handle Houston's Mike Hampton. It didn't appear to do much good. Hampton pitched seven solid innings and the Astros got two RBIs from Miguel Tejada and Geoff Blum in a 4-1 victory over the Pirates. Hampton (5-5) allowed one run and three hits to improve to 14-3 with a 2.20 ERA in 20 career starts against Pittsburgh dating to 1995. He has won 10 consecutive starts against the Pirates. "There were just a few things that Donny (hitting coach Don Long) talked to the team about," Pirates manager John Russell said. "And I thought we followed through. We made him throw more pitches, but we still hit ground balls. We hit them right at people ... he's tough. I thought we had some opportunities, but we just couldn't get it done." Hampton couldn't explain why he's been so dominant against the Pirates, and was reluctant to say much more about his success. "I don't want to really talk too much about it," he said with a grin. "I just hope it continues." Garrett Jones doubled in the seventh and scored on Robinzon Diaz's single for Pittsburgh's only run. Blum hit a two-run triple in the first and Tejada's two-run double in the fifth extended Houston's lead to 4-0. LaTroy Hawkins worked the eighth and Jose Valverde got three outs for his seventh save. Virgil Vasquez (1-2) went six innings in his third start of the season for Pittsburgh, allowing four runs and seven hits. The 27-year-old right-hander, who was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on June 26, walked three and struck out two. "I just needed to be better," Vasquez said. "I needed to go out there and put up a quick zero, get relaxed, but instead we were battling." Hampton walked the first two batters he faced, but made a nifty defensive play to escape the threat. He caught Delwyn Young's liner back up the middle despite losing his balance and having to steady himself by placing a hand on the dirt behind him. He got to his feet in time to double Jack Wilson off first and Jones grounded out to end the inning. "He made a great play on that line drive," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "Not many people would have made that play." Hampton said the play was a "wake-up call" and helped him get on track after a rocky start. "It was huge," he said. "That's a hit and a run and then probably we're looking at first and third with no outs and a run in. So it's just a big play. I was fortunate to get out of there." Tejada went 2 for 4 with two doubles one day after he made the NL roster for next week's All-Star game. Jones tried to make a leaping catch on Blum's drive in the first inning but it bounced off him before he bumped into the right-field wall. Jones scrambled to his feet but struggled to find the ball, which rolled into the corner. Umpires reviewed the play to determine if Blum's drive was a home run, but their initial ruling stood.

Notes

Pittsburgh 2B Freddy Sanchez missed his fourth consecutive start with back spasms and is listed as day to day. Russell said he did not take any swings when the team took early batting practice. ... Pirates C Ryan Doumit, on the disabled list with a wrist injury, was 0 for 2 and caught five innings for Indianapolis on Sunday.
Tagged: Astros, Pirates

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