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Hampton Wins 17th For Astros


A month ago, Daryle Ward and Lance Berkman did not figure to be in Houston's pennant-drive plans. Injuries, however, have placed the rookies in the middle of the picture.

Wild Mike Hampton tied teammate Jose Lima with his NL-leading 17th victory and Ward and Berkman homered on consecutive pitches as the Astros beat Florida 10-4 Sunday.

Ward's three-run homer and Berkman's solo shot erased the Marlins' 2-1 lead in the sixth inning.

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  • "Hopefully what they did today will give them a little confidence," Houston manager Larry Dierker said.

    "Over the next 10 days to two weeks Ward and Berkman are going to get their at-bats. It's a lot to ask them to step in and play in a pennant race every day, but right now we don't have any choice."

    With five outfielders on the disabled list and center fielder Carl Everett day-to-day because of a groin injury, Dierker relied on the two rookies and Bill Spiers in the starting outfield. All three are infielders.

    "The Astrodome is not the easiest place for an outfielder to get comfortable, but I feel like I can handle either of the corner positions," Berkman said. "It's a tough situation and we try not to put pressure on ourselves. I'm just glad we were able to contribute today."

    Said Ward: "I'm still learning but I'm getting more comfortable each time I'm out there."

    Craig Biggio hit a leadoff homer in the first for the Astros and broke his own team record with his 52nd double. Ken Caminiti added a three-run homer in the seventh.

    "Ward and Berkman got us going and Cammy sort of put a cap on it," Dierker said. "It was a breakout game for us."

    Hampton (17-3) overcame a career high-tying seven walks and improved to 8-0 in his last 11 starts. He allowed three earned runs in 7 1-3 innings.

    "It took me a while to figure out their game plan," Hampton said. "The were sitting on the sinker and taking the outside pitch the other way. Once (catcher Tony Eusebio) realized what they were going we starting going inside on them more."

    Biggio led off the Astros sixth with a single and Jeff Bagwell walked. With two outs, Alex Fernandez (6-8) gave up the consecutive homers by Ward and Berkman into the right-field seats.

    Fernandez said he threw a bad pitch to Ward.

    "Home runs haven't bothering me much this season," Fernandez said. "I tried to trick him, but I didn't trick him."

    Biggio doubled in the seventh and Bagwell was intentionally walked before Caminiti homered off Rafael Medina for an 8-3 lead. Eusebio hit an RBI double later in the inning off Vic Darensbourg.

    "The first year in this league is tough enough and it's even harder when you're asked to step in in a pennant race," Biggio said. "Even so (Ward and Berkman) are handling it well."

    Biggio, who lockers next to Berkman, even had some advice for the rookie.

    "Just don't put too much pressure on yourself," Biggio said. "If you have a game like today, great. If you don't, don't let it get you down."

    Dierker agreed.

    "It's not easy to get established in the big leagues, but all the great players go through it," Dierker said. "Daryle and Lance are going through it now."

    Luis Castillo extended his hitting streak to 18 games for the Marlins. He singled in the first and scored on Bruce Aven's groundout.

    Castillo doubled home a run in the sixth and drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth from Jay Powell.

    Biggio hit his 12th home run on Fernandez's first pitch of the game. An error by Berkman in right field gave the Marlins an unearned run in the fourth for a 2-1 lead.

    Notes

  • Biggio hit his fourth leadoff home run of the season and 21st of his career.
  • The Marlins' 96 homers are the fewest in the league and second-fewesin the majors behind Minnesota (86).
  • Bill Spiers started in center field for the first time in his 11-year career in the majors. Spiers was playing in place of Carl Everett, who is day-to-day because of a strained groin.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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