Pirates-Astros Preview

A sudden power surge has the Houston Astros in position for

their first series sweep in almost two months.

The Astros can do so by continuing their recent success over the

visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.

Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman each homered for the second

straight game as Houston (34-51) hit a season-high four home runs

in a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The Astros rank near the bottom of the majors with 54 home runs,

but have gone deep six times in the first two games of this

series.

“They always say (home runs) come in bunches, so we’ll take

’em,” said Berkman, who has a chance to homer in four straight

games for the first time since July 29-Aug. 2, 2007. “We’ve had a

dearth of them to this point in the season. Any time you can get

four or five home runs in a game, we’ll take it.”

Houston is 5-0 versus Pittsburgh (30-54) this season and has won

21 of 26 over the Pirates, who had won five of seven coming into

the series. The Astros last series sweep came at St. Louis from May

11-13.

Lee is 6 for 16 with two homers against the Pirates this

year.

After scoring 12 runs in the first two games of this set,

Houston looks to give ace Roy Oswalt (5-10, 3.32 ERA) some

well-deserved support when he takes the ball in the finale.

Though the right-hander has not won since June 16, he allowed

three hits and struck out seven in seven innings of a 3-0 loss at

San Diego on Friday. The 2.76 average runs of support the Astros

supply Oswalt is among the lowest in the majors.

“I haven’t seen (Oswalt) that good in a while,” Padres

outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. told the Astros’ official website.

Houston gave its ace just enough support in a 4-3 win over

Pittsburgh on April 23. Oswalt allowed three runs and four hits in

seven innings of that contest to improve to 14-7 with a 2.64 ERA in

26 starts against the Pirates.

Garrett Jones, 2 for 3 with a homer lifetime against Oswalt, had

three hits Wednesday for Pittsburgh. Teammate Ryan Doumit is 8 for

15 against Houston this season after going 3 for 3 with an RBI.

The Pirates hope Ross Ohlendorf (1-6, 4.39) can build on his

first win of the season while trying for his first victory against

the Astros.

The right-hander was 0-8 in his previous 16 starts before he

allowed five hits and struck out eight in seven innings of a 2-0

win over Philadelphia on Friday. Ohlendorf has allowed seven hits

and no earned runs over 13 innings in his last two starts.

“The last two (starts), I continued to make good pitches,”

Ohlendorf said. “That’s the big difference.”

A native of Austin, Texas, Ohlendorf is 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA as a

starter against Houston.