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Benson Rallies as Pirates Win

May 31, 1999| From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Kris Benson survived a two-run first inning, then held Houston to one hit over the next seven innings and drove in two runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates swept the Houston Astros with a 7-3 victory Sunday.

The three-game sweep was the Pirates' first over Houston since May 14-16, 1991, and came three weeks after the Astros swept Pittsburgh in three games in the Astrodome.

Going into the series, the Astros had won 12 of the last 14 over the Pirates, including a 9-2 edge in 1998.

"We had no offense, no defense, nothing," Astro Carl Everett said after going hitless in three at-bats with a sacrifice. "If we're playing well, that team shouldn't beat us," he said. "It was all us. We didn't play like we should."

The Astros, whose three starting pitchers in the series had a combined record of 20-5, have lost four in a row for the first time since July 10-13. The losing streak matches their longest in the two years.

Benson (4-3), a rookie but currently the Pirates' most dependable starter, gave up three hits and struck out seven in eight innings in his first career start against Houston.

He also put down a successful suicide squeeze in a four-run second inning and later had an RBI grounder.

Benson retired the final 13 batters he faced before being lifted after throwing 117 pitches on an 85-degree day. Richard Hidalgo homered with two outs in the ninth off Brad Clontz for Houston's first hit since the second inning.

Mike Benjamin's three-run double keyed the Pirates' big second inning against Mike Hampton (5-2), the second Houston pitcher in the series to lose for the first time since the opening week of the season.

Hampton had won five in a row since losing to the Cubs on April 7, including a 6-0 shutout of Pittsburgh on May 10. He was 4-0 with an 0.82 earned-run average with two shutouts in his previous four starts against the Pirates and hadn't lost to them in five starts since Aug. 21, 1996.

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