The Houston Astros have won only four of Mike Hampton’s(notes) 13 starts this year. Three of the victories have come against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team he’s utterly dominated throughout his career.
Hampton tries to win his 10th straight start versus the Pirates when the Astros open a three-game series Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
In his first season with Houston (39-41) since 1999, Hampton (4-5, 4.44 ERA) has continued to overpower Pittsburgh in a run that began the year after he left the Astros. He has posted a 1.34 ERA in nine straight wins over the Pirates, and his 13-3 mark against them gives him his best winning percentage versus any opponent.
The veteran left-hander has been even better in his three starts against Pittsburgh this year, posting a 0.90 ERA with 16 strikeouts and two walks over 20 innings. His latest victory over the Pirates was a 9-1 win June 5 in which he yielded one run in seven innings.
“This is basically the same game he pitched against us the last time,” Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. “We just did not have many opportunities.”
Hampton is 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA in his last two starts. Houston fell to 0-4 when he does not get a decision with a 4-3 loss Tuesday at San Diego. Hampton allowed one run over six innings.
Houston is starting a seven-game homestand against two last-place teams, Pittsburgh (37-45) and Washington.
The Astros are 6-3 versus the Pirates this year, with shortstop Miguel Tejada(notes) going 16 for 33 (.485) in those games. Tejada and right fielder Hunter Pence(notes) were selected as Houston’s All-Star representatives Sunday, and both homered in a 7-1 win over San Francisco.
“I never look to hit a home run but sometimes I get lucky,” Tejada said. “I just want to get on base ahead of the big guys. We have a week at home and we’re getting close. We’ll keep playing hard and see how we finish the first half.”
Pittsburgh has lost six of seven on the road, dropping two of three in Florida over the weekend. The Pirates have fallen seven games out of first place in the NL Central, due in large part to their 11-23 record in division play.
“It’s happened before. Once we get it calmed down, I’ll be ready to go,” Sanchez said about his back problems.
Virgil Vazquez (1-1, 3.75) will get the ball for Pittsburgh in his third start of the year. He gave up three runs over six innings Wednesday and suffered his first loss, 4-1 to the Chicago Cubs.
The right-hander had not pitched in the majors since 2007 for Detroit before his Pittsburgh debut June 26 against Kansas City. Vazquez yielded two runs over six innings to earn a 5-3 victory - his first in the big leagues.