San Francisco (95-59) at Houston (84-71)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 78° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Mon Sep 22, 2003
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The San Francisco Giants are trying to get home-field advantage in the National League playoffs. The Houston Astros are still trying to get into the postseason.

The Astros look to extend their narrow lead in the NL Central as they open a three-game series against the Giants at Minute Maid Park.

Houston’s lead over Chicago in the NL Central was narrowed to one-half game as the Astros lost 6-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

Houston, which failed to hold a 3-0 lead, had won six of eight.

“The years we’ve won have usually gone down to the last week,” Houston’s Craig Biggio said. “It’s always a grind. We have the right mixture of veterans and young players to handle it.”

After this series, the Astros close the season at home with four games against Milwaukee.

The Giants, who have already clinched the NL West title, are a game behind Atlanta for the best mark in the league, which guarantees home-field advantage in the NL playoffs.

San Francisco rested Barry Bonds and most of its other regulars on Sunday as the Giants lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-5.

Bonds has 44 homers this year and needs three to tie Willie Mays for third place on the career list at 660. Manager Felipe Alou said he plans to play Bonds in four of the seven remaining games—in two at Houston and two at home against the Dodgers.

The Astros will send veteran Ron Villone to the mound against San Francisco. The left-hander has lost three straight decisions, posting a 7.11 ERA over his last four starts.

Bonds is 3-for-6 with three home runs lifetime against Villone.

STANDINGS: Giants - 1st place, NL West. Astros - 1st place, NL Central.

GIANTS PROBABLE STARTER: Jerome Williams (7-4, 3.30 ERA). The rookie-right hander is 4-2 with a 3.63 ERA on the road. Williams is coming off a 4-2 win over San Diego on Tuesday. He pitched seven innings, allowing one run and four hits with five strikeouts. Williams is just 2-3 in 10 starts since the All-Star break.

ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Villone (6-5, 3.99 ERA). Villone was roughed up for five runs and seven hits despite striking out eight in 4 1-3 innings of a 7-5 loss to Colorado on Wednesday.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Giants - Bonds, .340 avg., 44 HRs, 88 RBIs and 107 runs; Eric Young, 27 SBs. Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .314 avg.; Jeff Bagwell, 37 HRs, 95 RBIs, 107 runs and 11 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Giants, 2-1.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Giants - OF Marquis Grissom is 6-for-9 with three doubles lifetime against Villone. … OF Bonds leads the majors with 147 walks. He’s been walked at least 100 times in 11 out of the last 13 seasons. … 2B Young is sixth in the AL with 27 SBs. Astros - OF Lance Berkman has just 24 home runs and 91 RBIs after posting 42 home runs and 128 RBIs in 2002. … 1B Bagwell scored his 1,400th career run on Sunday. He’s tied with OF Bonds for fifth in the NL this season with 107 runs scored. … LHP Villone is 1-1 with a 6.10 ERA in 14 career appearances, two of them starts, against San Francisco.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Giants - 41-36 on the road; Astros - 45-29 at home.

INJURIES: Giants - RHP Jesse Foppert (arm), 15-day DL; RHP Robb Nen (shoulder), 60-day DL. Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 60-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Williams Phi vs. R. Villone Was
7-5 Record 6-6
3.30 ERA 4.13
88 K 91
49 BB 48
1.26 WHIP 1.30