The Astros entered the Left Coast road trip full of question marks. Could they be the team that swept the Cubs or would they be the team that let the Brewers steal 2 games from them?
Right after a disappointing homestand where the Astros gave away 2 games to the Brew Crew, the Astros started a very tough road series to the West Coast, 4 against the Dodgers and 3 against the Padres. Things were looking good in LA when the Astros took the first two games of the series behind stellar pitching from Roy Oswalt and Matt Albers, but, the road woes for the Astros continued as Jason Jennings and Wandy Rodriguez gave away the last two games to the Dodgers.
As the Astros drove down south to San Diego, things on paper weren’t looking good. Woody Williams of the 5+ ERA was going to be facing the Padres ace Jake Peavy, and Morgan Ensberg was going to be in the lineup, just waiting to light up his former team.
Surprisingly, Williams pitched an outstanding game and Lance Berkman decided he was going to carry his team on his back Friday night. The final score was Lance Berkman 3, San Diego Padres 1, as Berkman hit 2 homeruns and drove in all 3 of the Astros runs.
Saturday was more or less a given Astros win with Roy Oswalt facing Justin Germano. It started out as predicted with the Stros scoring 3 runs on Germano and Oswalt being his dominant self. However, in the top of the 5th inning, Roy O was having some problems and ended up leaving the game after 4 2/3rds innings pitched. It was obvious that the pain he was suffering was not going to let him finish the 5th to qualify for the win even though Roy tried to wince his way through it.
Luckily for the Astros, the bullpen did Roy O proud. Dave Borkowski, Chad Qualls and Brad Lidge combined for 4 and 1/3 scoreless innings to secure the Astros first road winning record in quite some time.
Carlos Lee also suffered an injury in this game and hopefully both Roy and Carlos will be ready to go as soon as possible. If the Astros are to make a stretch run for the playoffs, they can’t do it without these two men healthy.
On the DL front: Astros have sent Hunter Pence on a 3 game rehab stint to AAA Round Rock. Chris Sampson is ready to start a rehab stint in AAA and Brandon Backe has for the most part done fantastic in his 4 of 6 rehab stints for Round Rock.
Pence should be in the Astros lineup on Tuesday barring unforeseen complications. Sampson and Backe should be in the starting rotation no later than the 1st week of September. It will be interesting to see if the Astros put Jason Jennings on the DL once the rosters expand on 1 September as both Backe and Sampson are due back then.
Things in the NL Central are getting exciting as the race tightens up and the Astros try to get right into the thick of the race, having had a winning road trip and looking forward to facing the Nationals, Pirates and Cardinals on their 10 game homestand.