Villone looks to break a two-start winless streak when the Astros conclude their three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
The 33-year-old left-hander lasted just two-plus innings on Saturday, allowing four runs and four hits in the Astros’ 11-4 win over the San Diego Padres.
The Astros will likely need a much stronger start from Villone if they are to maintain their one-game lead over the Chicago Cubs. Houston has won three straight and six of seven.
Houston has owned at least a share of first place in all but four days since July 8.
“You have to be concerned with what you do with your own team,” Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell said. “You can’t worry about what anybody else did. We go out and win games. We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
“It’s good to be back in first place, but we got to keep going.”
The Brewers have lost six straight and are 2-7 on their 10-game homestand.
STANDINGS: Astros - 1st place, NL Central. Brewers - 5th place (tied), 16 GB, NL Central.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Villone (6-3, 3.63 ERA). Before Saturday’s disappointing outing against San Diego, Villone had allowed no more than three earned runs in five consecutive starts. He was 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in that span.
BREWERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ben Sheets (10-12, 4.25 ERA). Sheets is winless in his past seven starts, going 0-5 with a 5.82 ERA. He allowed three runs and six hits over seven innings in a 4-2 loss to the Cubs on Friday. In nine career games against the Astros, the 25-year-old right-hander is 5-2 with a 3.25 ERA.
SEASON SERIES: Astros, 7-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Astros - C Brad Ausmus is batting .111 (2-for-18) in his career against RHP Sheets. … 2B Jeff Kent hit his 400th career double on Wednesday. … 1B Bagwell needs one homer to tie Darrell Evans for 34th on the all-time list with 414. Brewers - CF Podsednik was caught stealing in the first inning Wednesday, snapping his streak of 14 consecutive stolen bases. … 1B Sexson is batting .423 (11-for-26) during a seven-game hitting streak. … RHP Sheets is 3-7 with a 4.08 ERA in 16 starts at home.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Astros - 36-38 on the road; Brewers - 29-46 at home.
INJURIES: Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 60-day DL. Brewers - OF Geoff Jenkins (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Jayson Durocher (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Matt Ford (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Nick Neugebauer (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Ruben Quevedo (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Todd Ritchie (shoulder), 60-day DL.