Astros-Giants Preview

While the San Francisco Giants wait to see if an All-Star closer

will be joining their staff for the stretch run, they’re looking

for revenge against the worst team in the majors.

With the status of Heath Bell still in question, the Giants meet

the Houston Astros in the opener of a four-game set Thursday

night.

San Francisco (69-61), two games behind Arizona in the NL West,

may have found a replacement for injured closer Brian Wilson after

claiming Bell off waivers from San Diego on Wednesday. A three-time

All-Star, Bell has a 2.55 ERA and has converted 35 of 39 save

opportunities this season.

Bell’s 124 saves since 2009 are the most in the majors. Wilson,

on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation, is

second with 121.

“I feel pretty honored. They’re the world champs, they want me

to be part of their organization,” said Bell. “But nothing has

happened right now.”

San Diego has 48 hours from when Bell was claimed to decide

whether to work out a trade, allow him to be claimed or pull him

back from waivers.

Starting pitching and hitting were bigger problems than the

bullpen as the Giants lost two of three to the lowly Astros (42-88)

last weekend in Houston. San Francisco’s starters posted a 7.04 ERA

while the lineup was blanked in the series opener.

Carlos Beltran didn’t face his former team while on the disabled

list with a wrist injury, but should play Thursday. In his second

game after being activated, Beltran hit his first homer since being

acquired at the non-waiver trade deadline in San Francisco’s 2-1

win Thursday over the Padres.

“I think it gives us a lot of confidence that he’s healthy and

he’s going to step up,” shortstop Orlando Cabrera said of

Beltran.

While with the New York Mets, Beltran was 6 for 20 with three

doubles and a homer in five games against the Astros this year.

The Giants swept the Astros in a three-game set at AT&T Park

last year, and have taken five of the last six matchups in San

Francisco.

Mired in the first slump of his surprising season, Ryan

Vogelsong (10-3, 2.47 ERA) will try to avoid his third loss in four

starts for the Giants.

The All-Star right-hander was 9-1 with a 2.19 ERA after beating

the Diamondbacks on Aug. 3. Since then, Vogelsong is 1-2 with a

4.12 ERA.

Facing Houston on Friday, Vogelsong was tagged for five runs –

two earned – and four hits with four walks in seven innings of the

Giants’ 6-0 loss.

Vogelsong is 6-2 with a 1.82 ERA at AT&T Park, but he

allowed more than two runs there for the first time in 11 starts

this year in his last home outing Aug. 8, yielding five runs in

five innings to Pittsburgh.

Houston’s Henry Sosa (0-2, 6.35) will make his second straight

start against San Francisco. The rookie gave up four runs and four

hits in five innings of the Astros’ 6-4 loss in 11 innings

Sunday.

The right-hander, starting on three days’ rest because Jordan

Lyles was sent to the minors, was acquired from San Francisco on

July 19 in a trade for infielder Jeff Keppinger.

After failing to complete a sweep of the Giants on Sunday, the

Astros dropped three straight at Colorado, capped by Wednesday’s

7-6 loss in 10 innings.

Wandy Rodriguez, claimed off waivers by the Rockies earlier in

the day, gave up six runs in six innings, but he’ll likely stay

with Houston after the teams apparently failed to work out a

trade.

Brian Bogusevic had three hits Wednesday and was 7 for 12 with a

homer in Denver. He’s batting .422 in 24 road games.