On a Tear

Coming off what Lance Berkman kiddingly termed a miraculous road trip, the Houston Astros are hoping they can pick up where they left off at home.

The Astros kick off a seven-game homestand Monday when they begin a three-game set with the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Chicago -123 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 10 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on Chicago -123 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

The Astros (25-20) wrapped up a 7-3 trip with Sunday's 5-4 win over Texas. Houston, which was outscored 22-10 in dropping the first two games of the series, opened the trip with a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers before taking three of four in San Francisco.

"It's a miracle," joked Berkman when asked about the road swing.

Berkman could say the same about his recent play, as he's powered the Astros offensively during their current run. The first baseman, who went 2-for-5 on Sunday to maintain his .399 average, is batting .545 (36-for-66) with eight homers and 21 RBIs during a 17-game hitting streak.

"I'm sure he's dumbfounded by what he's doing himself," said right-hander Brandon Backe, who earned Sunday's win. "It seems like everything is falling right now. We need to ride that train as long as possible."

Berkman is hitting .476 this season at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros had won eight in a row before falling 8-3 to Washington on May 8 in their final game before the road trip. Houston owns the fourth-best home record in the NL at 11-6.

Berkman's hot streak has overshadowed teammate Hunter Pence, who's batting .359 (23-for-64) during a 16-game hit streak.

The Cubs (27-17) have dropped seven of their last 10 road games, but carry some momentum into this series after an 8-2 homestand.

Chicago took two of three from Pittsburgh over the weekend, including Sunday's 4-3 win. The Cubs' record is the second-best in baseball, behind 28-16 Arizona, but manager Lou Piniella cautioned that it's still too early to know just how good his club is.

"I think we have a chance. A lot of baseball to be played, a lot of things can happen," Piniella said.

"Like I said, the division has gotten tougher, the National League as a whole, we're little bit more of a marked team and I think for people to make those conclusions if they feel that good about it, they should load up in Vegas, but I don't feel that way."

Piniella will hand the ball to Ted Lilly (4-4, 5.33 ERA), who looks to win his fourth straight start Monday. Lilly gave up four runs but struck out 11 in six innings of Wednesday's 8-5 home victory over San Diego.

That win came five days after he struck out 10 Arizona hitters in a 3-1 victory at Wrigley Field.

"I don't think I just stand out there and try to throw fastballs by guys," Lilly said. "I have to mix my pitches and change speeds and locate the ball and things like that. And at times, when I got my curveball going, I'm going to get some strikeouts on it. But I'm not going to say I'm a power pitcher."

Lilly is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in three career starts against the Astros, who will counter with Brian Moehler (1-0, 4.58).

The right-hander is making his eighth appearance and third start this season. He gave up three runs in five innings and didn't get a decision in Houston's 6-3 win at San Francisco on Wednesday.

Five days earlier, he threw five scoreless innings in his first start of the season, a 7-1 road win over the Dodgers.

Moehler is 1-0 with a 3.91 ERA in six outings - three starts - against the Cubs. Bet this game.

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