LOS ANGELES -- Chris Sampson was struggling badly with the Houston Astros, so pitching coach Dewey Robinson corrected a flaw in his delivery. Bench coach Jackie Moore also reminded the right-hander of what got him to the majors.
The advice worked wonders.
Sampson pitched three-hit ball over seven innings in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night, and was hopeful that this kind of outing could turn his season around.
"I had a nice heart-to-heart talk with Jackie Moore, because I played for him at Round Rock in '06 and he saw me pitch a lot," Sampson said. "I asked him his thoughts on what was the difference between Round Rock and now, and that helped out tremendously -- as well as figuring out what I was doing wrong mechanically."
Robinson detected a flaw in Sampson's stride and worked with him on shortening it during an extra bullpen session. Sampson combined with Wesley Wright and Oscar Villarreal on the Astros' first shutout at Dodger Stadium since June 23, 1993.
"That's the Chris Sampson we've been looking for," manager Cecil Cooper said. "He was in command throughout. He was really efficient early, pitching down in the strike zone, mixing his pitches in and out, using his changeup and throwing his two-seamer to get the ball to sink and run. That was vintage Sampson tonight."
Sampson (2-3) struck out three and walked one, matching his longest outing of the season. The right-hander had given up 18 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings in his previous four outings.
"It was a big start for him, that's for sure," Cooper said. "I didn't really give a lot of thought to what we might do (with Sampson), but we needed him to be the guy that we saw last year and he stepped up big for us."
Sampson got 11 of his outs on groundballs, including a double-play by Jeff Kent to end the sixth.
The Dodgers' best scoring chance came in the fifth with runners at second and third and no outs. But Chin-lung Hu grounded out to third and pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney lined out to first baseman Lance Berkman, who then made a diving stop of Juan Pierre's grounder in the hole and tossed to Sampson for the third out.
"It was a good feeling out there, but it's only one outing," Sampson said. "We still have a lot to do, and I've got to build on this."
Darin Erstad and Miguel Tejada each drove in two runs for the Astros, who have won seven of their last eight.
Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley (2-5) allowed five runs -- four earned -- and six hits in five innings.
"The first two innings, I was getting ahead of hitters and wasn't able to put them away," Billingsley said. "The ball was staying up. They're a good hitting team and they put the ball in play."
The Dodgers have fallen behind 12-0, 7-0 and 5-0 in their last three games, avoiding a shutout with a ninth-inning run in each of the first two. During that stretch, their starting pitchers have allowed 14 runs over the first three innings.
Los Angeles' Rafael Furcal, third in the majors with a .366 average, missed his fourth straight game with a sore lower back.
Billingsley threw two wild pitches and hit a batter during the Astros' three-run first. The second wild pitch put two in scoring position and led to an intentional walk to Berkman. Carlos Lee followed with a sacrifice fly, and Erstad hit a two-run double to right-center with two outs.
Erstad was starting for the eighth time this season and the third time in right field.
"When you get a chance, hopefully you can help out," Erstad said. "I know what my role is here, but it's been a big adjustment and I'm still trying to figure it out. It is what it is, and you just find a way through it."
The Astros increased the margin to 5-0 in the second on Tejada's two-run single with the bases loaded, and probably would have tacked on more that inning had they not run themselves into a pair of outs.
Kaz Matsui tried to advance two bases on Tejada's hit, but was erased in a rundown between second and third after first baseman James Loney cut off right fielder Matt Kemp's throw toward the plate. Tejada attempted to score on Berkman's double into the right-field corner, but second baseman Kent took Kemp's relay and threw to Russell Martin for the tag on Tejada.