HOUSTON — The Houston Astros' marathon with the Cincinnati Reds has become a sprint.
Mike Hampton became the National League's first 21-game winner and Daryle Ward hit a two-run homer Wednesday night as the Astros beat Cincinnati, 4-1, and tied the Reds for first place in the Central Division.
"We've had no bigger win all year," said Hampton, who struck out eight and walked one. "We've got to get on a roll."
With three games remaining, the Astros and Reds are 95-64 after splitting their two-game series. In the wild-card race, each is 1 1/2 games ahead of the New York Mets.
Houston closes with three games at home against the Dodgers, and Cincinnati, which had its six-game winning streak stopped, ends with three games at Milwaukee.
"We're still in control of our destiny," said Red shortstop Barry Larkin, whose throwing error led to three unearned runs. "We have to win. It's real simple."
Hampton (21-4) stranded at least one runner in scoring position in the first three innings without allowing a run. Cincinnati's Steve Parris (11-3) retired nine of the first 11 batters he faced.
Hampton, who tied the Astros' record for wins set by Joe Niekro in 1979, allowed one run and seven hits in eight innings.