|Houston (41-47) «||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||6||8||0|
ATLANTA -- Chris Sampson didn't have to pitch like Houston ace Roy Oswalt.
It was enough that Sampson, making a fill-in start, pitched as well as he has in relief.
Sampson gave up only one run in five innings, Mark Loretta drove in four runs with three doubles and the Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 6-1 on Saturday night to snap their four-game losing streak.
Sampson (4-3) has posted a 2.16 ERA in 13 relief appearances since his last start on May 25. He needed only 55 pitches to last five innings.
"Sampson was outstanding," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "My usual word for him is very efficient, and he was. ... He really gutted through five innings."
Sampson and relievers Tim Byrdak, Doug Brocail and Jose Valverde combined to give up four hits and no walks.
"(Sampson) hit his spots," Atlanta's Chipper Jones said. "He hit his spots well. He moved the ball in and out, changed speeds. For us to get (four) baserunners tonight is pathetic. Against anybody."
Sampson gave up two hits with no walks and two strikeouts.
"I really didn't even pace myself," Sampson said. "I pitched like I was coming out of the bullpen. ... I used all my pitches. I didn't save any pitches. I didn't worry at all. If I only got three innings, then I just got three innings."
Oswalt, who returned to Houston to be examined on Saturday after experiencing more pain in his left hip, is expected to rejoin the team Sunday. When asked if Oswalt might make another start before the All-Star break, Cooper said, "We're always hoping."
Cooper made out a new-look lineup that included Ty Wigginton batting leadoff for the first time this season.
Before the game, Cooper said "I like my chances" because of the strong on-base percentages of Wigginton (.456) and Loretta (.438) against left-handed pitchers. The two played key roles against Braves left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes as the Astros scored four times in the first two innings.
Loretta reached base in each of his three plate appearances against Reyes. He walked in the first and scored on a single to right by Carlos Lee, who then scored from second on Miguel Tejada's single to left.
Loretta's two-run double to right in the second drove in Wigginton and Brad Ausmus. Loretta added another double in the fifth but was thrown out at the plate by first baseman Mark Teixeira, after McCann threw to first attempting to catch Carlos Lee.
Loretta's third double, off Jeff Bennett in the ninth, drove in David Newhan and Darin Erstad.
"I had a little bit of luck tonight," Loretta said, after matching his career high for doubles in a game.
Even with Lance Berkman going 0-for-4 with a walk, the Astros had more than enough offense to beat the punchless Braves, who managed only four hits and have lost six of seven.
"Absolutely pathetic," said Jones, who was 0-for-4. "We didn't even get five hitters into our lineup and we're down 4-0. And then all of a sudden everybody's going, 'Oh no, here we go again.' And then guys start to press."
Added Jones: "If we keep playing one good game every five, it's going to be a long summer."
Reyes (3-7), who has not won in four starts since June 13, gave up six hits and four runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Sampson gave up his only run in the fifth on Brian McCann's 15th homer, possibly earning another start.
"We'll kind of see how things go," Cooper said.
Said Sampson: "Obviously, my heart was in the rotation, but if the team needed me in the pen, I was going to go to the pen. I've gotten pretty comfortable out of the pen."
Byrdak pitched two scoreless innings behind Sampson, and Brocail and Valverde combined for two perfect innings.
Jason Perry, called up Friday when the Braves optioned right fielder Jeff Francoeur to Double-A Mississippi, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
|Players of the Game|
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|Ty Wigginton, 3B||3||1||0||0||2||1||1||.264|
|Mark Loretta, 2B||4||1||3||4||1||0||0||.276|
|Michael Bourn, CF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.223|
|Lance Berkman, 1B||4||0||0||0||1||1||2||.350|
|Carlos Lee, LF||4||1||1||1||1||0||3||.293|
|Jose Valverde, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Miguel Tejada, SS||4||0||1||1||0||0||1||.282|
|Hunter Pence, RF||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.262|
|Reggie Abercrombie, CF||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.200|
|Tim Byrdak, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.250|
|Doug Brocail, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- David Newhan, PH-2B||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||.313|
|Brad Ausmus, C||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.213|
|Chris Sampson, P||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.150|
|Darin Erstad, CF-LF||2||1||1||0||0||1||0||.305|
|a-walked for Brocail in the 9th|
|2B - Mark Loretta 3 (11, Reyes, Reyes, J. Bennett)|
|SH - Chris Sampson (2)|
|RBI - Mark Loretta 4 (25), Carlos Lee (66), Miguel Tejada (44)|
|2-OUT RBI - Mark Loretta 4 (16), Carlos Lee (32), Miguel Tejada (13)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|DP - Berkman-Tejada|
|Chris Sampson (W,4-3)||5||2||1||1||0||2||1||4.85|
|Tim Byrdak (H,4)||2||2||0||0||0||1||0||1.55|
|Doug Brocail (H,16)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2.95|
|Pitches-Strikes - Chris Sampson 56-36, Tim Byrdak 24-17, Doug Brocail 9-6, Jose Valverde 16-10|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chris Sampson 5-8, Tim Byrdak 4-0, Doug Brocail 2-1, Jose Valverde 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Chris Sampson 17, Tim Byrdak 7, Doug Brocail 3, Jose Valverde 3|
|Gregor Blanco, LF||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||.271|
|Yunel Escobar, SS||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||.289|
|Chipper Jones, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||1||2||.385|
|Mark Teixeira, 1B||3||0||1||0||0||0||1||.272|
|Brian McCann, C||3||1||1||1||0||0||1||.298|
|Kelly Johnson, 2B||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.276|
|Mark Kotsay, CF||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||.277|
|Jason Perry, RF||3||0||0||0||0||2||0||.143|
|Jo-Jo Reyes, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Manny Acosta, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Martin Prado, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.250|
|Buddy Carlyle, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Greg Norton, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.248|
|Jeff Bennett, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.143|
|a-grounded out for Acosta in the 6th|
|b-popped out for Carlyle in the 8th|
|HR - Brian McCann (15, Sampson)|
|RBI - Brian McCann (48)|
|Team LOB - 2|
|Jo-Jo Reyes (L,3-7)||4.1||6||4||4||3||2||0||4.40|
|IBB - Lee by Jo-Jo Reyes, Berkman by Jeff Bennett|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jo-Jo Reyes 86-54, Manny Acosta 13-10, Buddy Carlyle 17-14, Jeff Bennett 29-13|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jo-Jo Reyes 8-3, Manny Acosta 1-1, Buddy Carlyle 1-3, Jeff Bennett 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Jo-Jo Reyes 22, Manny Acosta 4, Buddy Carlyle 6, Jeff Bennett 8|
|Attendance - 37049|
|Game Time - 2:32|
|Temperature - 83|
|Umpires - Home - Larry Vanover, First Base - Mike Everitt, Second Base - Mike DiMuro, Third Base - Mike Estabrook|