Mike Hampton says he's not a strikeout pitcher. He sure looked like one against the Atlanta Braves.
Hampton struck out a career-high 12 and got his first victory since July 31 as the Houston Astros beat the Braves 3-2 Tuesday night, extending their winning streak to five.
"I'm not a strikeout pitcher, it just worked out that way today," Hampton said. "I kept the ball down and they were taking a lot of pitches. I knew if I kept my team in the game we had a chance."
Hampton (10-6), whose previous strikeout high was nine, allowed both runs and six hits in eight innings and walked five. He had been 0-1 in his previous four starts.
"Hampy is still not quite what we are expecting, but he's getting there," Astros manager Larry Dierker said. "He's not going to be a guy who strikes out 12 batters all the time. I think he has the ability to go eight innings and have a good outing and not strike out 12."
Houston stopped Atlanta's four-game winning streak and moved within 41/2 games of the Braves for the best record in the NL.
"They were a great team last year, and they're even better now," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
Chipper Jones got a pair of singles off Hampton but came away admiring his performance.
"We got a couple of hits and then he started bringing that slider inside," Jones said. "He's gone through a slump, but he's a bona fide 15-game winner and probably better when he put a season together."
"I had good stuff all night long," Millwood said. "Just a couple of times I needed to make a pitch and I didn't. You've got to make all your pitches against a team like this. I felt like I mixed my pitches and kept them off balance."
Billy Wagner struck out the side in the ninth for his 25th save, sending Atlanta to just its seventh loss in 27 games this year against left-handed starters.
"When a guy plays like that, you feel for that guy and you pick up your game a notch," Wagner said of Hampton. "We've just got to keep playing like this and keep the momentum going."
Jeff Bagwell hit an RBI double in the first, and Houston increased the lead to 2-0 in the third when Hampton had a run-scoring double-play grounder.
Javy Lopez hit his 27th homer leading off the fourth, and Michael Tucker tied the score with an RBI double in the sixth.
"I've hit him pretty good on and off since 1994," Lopez said. "Sometimes I go three-for-four and sometimes 0-for-four against him. He was consistent. He was hitting the corners and pounding the ball inside."
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved