|Houston Astros Go For Rare Sweep of Playoff Contending Padres|
|Sunday, 19 August 2007 08:30|
Once Every 25 Years...
The Astros (56-67) could be without slugger Carlos Lee when they wrap up their series against Greg Maddux and the Padres (65-57) on Sunday.
Houston hasn't swept a three-game series in San Diego since Aug. 9-11, 1982. They beat the Padres 3-2 on Saturday for their fifth win in seven games.
However, Lee and staff ace Roy Oswalt were both injured in the win. Lee, who leads Houston with 24 homers and 97 RBIs, left in the third inning with a strained right hip flexor and Oswalt - a two-time 20-game winner - was forced from the game with a strained left oblique one out from qualifying for the win.
Both players are listed as day-to-day, and manager Phil Garner said neither is a candidate for the disabled list "as of right now."
"Yeah, it concerns me," Garner said. "Obviously they're our horses. We'll get through it."
Meanwhile, the Padres have dropped three of four to fall a season-high five games behind NL West-leading Arizona. However, San Diego remained tied for the NL wild card lead with Philadelphia, which lost to Pittsburgh.
San Diego has scored three runs in its last three losses, and its 529 runs this season are the third fewest in the NL.
Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made San Diego -165 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 85% of bets for this game have been placed on San Diego -165 (View MLB Bet Percentages).
"Not scoring enough runs is a bad deal," said San Diego's Morgan Ensberg, who is hitting just .225 (9-for-40) with three homers since being acquired from Houston on July 31. "We haven't been consistent enough. We have to find a way to push more runs across, especially when we pitch well."
Coming off his first win in nine starts, Maddux (8-9, 4.00 ERA) will try to help the Padres avoid the sweep. He threw 5 2-3 innings in Tuesday's 8-0 win over Colorado after going 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA since winning at San Francisco on June 27.
The 41-year-old right-hander did not walk a batter for the third straight start, extending his streak to 22 innings without issuing a pass.
"There's always a place for them, but there's not many," Maddux said. "You always want to make them earn their way on."
The four-time NL Cy Young Award winner is 6-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 12 starts at Petco Park this season.
He is 26-15 with a 2.78 ERA in 48 career starts against the Astros, but has lost each of the last four. Maddux gave up three runs in six innings of a 3-1 loss in Houston on July 28.
Second baseman Craig Biggio, who plans to retire at the end of the season, is 38-for-130 (.292) all-time against Maddux.
Houston will counter with Matt Albers (3-5, 5.99), who is making his 11th start of the season.
In his second start since replacing injured rookie Chris Sampson, Albers gave up three runs in 6 2-3 innings of Tuesday's 7-4 road win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The victory was the right-hander's first overall since July 3 and first as a starter since May 5.
"Albers is going to be a starter for us in the future, whether it's this year or next year," Garner told the Astros' official Web site. "He's going to start for us. Even if he pitches out of the bullpen, it's still going to be good experience for him."
Albers' only previous start against the Padres came on Aug. 3, 2006, when he allowed five runs in five innings of a 5-2 road loss. He also threw two scoreless innings of relief against them on July 29, but didn't get the decision in Houston's 18-11 home loss.
by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us
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