Houston (82-68) at Colorado (68-83)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Denver, CO
Temp: 58° F
  • Game info: 9:05 pm EDT Wed Sep 17, 2003
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Houston Astros are back at Coors Field for the first time since April 2002. They seem to have picked the right time to come back.

With the Colorado Rockies suddenly unable to win at home, the Astros look for their fifth straight victory when they continue their three-game series in Denver.

With Houston trying to protect a 1 1/2 -game lead in the NL Central, a September series in one of the league’s toughest places to win seemed like it could be dangerous.

But the series comes at a time when the Rockies are faltering in their home park. Houston’s 14-4 victory in Tuesday’s series opener gave Colorado four straight home losses and nine in its last 10 at Coors Field.

Darren Oliver, who is scheduled to start Wednesday, is just one of the Rockies struggling at home. The left-hander was 5-0 in his first nine games at Coors Field this season, but is 0-3 with a 9.37 ERA in four starts since.

Richard Hidalgo hit three homers and drove in five runs in Tuesday’s rout. The Astros hit six homers and won for the 10th time in 12 games.

The red-hot Hidalgo is a career .380 hitter in September, best among active players.

“I can’t explain that,” Hidalgo said. “I saw the ball pretty good tonight. I just tried to see the ball and hit it. Three homers—I’m happy about that, and I’m happy we won the game.”

Adam Everett, Jeff Kent and Morgan Ensberg also homered for the Astros, who are a season-high 14 games above .500.

The Rockies, who have dropped 17 of their last 21 overall, have been outscored 35-10 while losing three in a row.

“Embarrassing? Yes,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “Sometimes you want to scream and you want to kick, but until we get to the point where we pitch better consistently, it’s hard to yell at the whole club. We have some young guys who are taking some lumps and getting taken to the woodshed on the mound. We didn’t do anything well tonight.”

STANDINGS: Astros - 1st place, NL Central. Rockies - 4th place, 24 GB, NL West.

ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Ron Villone (6-4, 3.69 ERA). Villone is 0-2 in his last three outings after winning his previous three decisions. The left-hander is 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA in 11 games, including three starts, against the Rockies.

ROCKIES PROBABLE STARTER: Oliver (11-11, 5.01 ERA). Oliver beat St. Louis in his last start, snapping a season-high five-game losing streak and avoiding matching a career high with a sixth straight loss. The veteran lefty is 3-2 lifetime against the Astros with a 6.08 ERA in five starts.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Astros - Hidalgo, .314 avg.; Jeff Bagwell, 35 HRs, 89 RBIs, 102 runs and 10 SBs. Rockies - Todd Helton, .356 avg. and 127 runs; Preston Wilson, 34 HRs, 136 RBIs and 12 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Astros, 3-1.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Astros - 2B Kent has 22 homers, tied with current CF Craig Biggio for most by an Astros second baseman. Biggio had 22 in 1995 and 1997. … OF Hidalgo is hitting .448 (26-for-58) with 18 RBIs in his last 14 games. … Houston needs to win one of the next two games for just its third series win at Colorado in 11 years. The Astros took three of four in July 1999, and two of three in June 2000. Rockies - Colorado is just 18-36 since the All-Star break, worst in the National League and better only than major league-worst Detroit (13-45). … 1B Helton has a 10-game hitting streak. … The Rockies need to win four of their final eight home games to finish with 49 home victories, which would be their second-best ever. They went 48-33 in 2000, second only to their 55-26 mark in 1996.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Astros - 37-39 on the road; Rockies - 45-28 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. Rockies - C Bobby Estalella (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Shawn Chacon (elbow), 15-day DL; LHP Denny Neagle (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Chris Richard (shoulder), 60-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

R. Villone Was vs. D. Oliver Tor
6-6 Record 13-11
4.13 ERA 5.04
91 K 88
48 BB 61
1.30 WHIP 1.45