Instead, both are struggling to stay in the wild-card hunt.
Two of baseball’s most disappointing teams open a three-game series when the Astros visit the Phillies.
While Philadelphia was a popular pick to win the NL East at season’s outset, Houston was just as common a choice to win the NL Central after the offseason additions of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens to the starting rotation.
Following this weekend’s action, the Astros found themselves 19 1/2 games back of first-place St. Louis. Of the month that has passed since the All-Star break, they’ve been above .500 for just six days.
“No doubt about it, we’re just looking for something to get us going,” said Orlando Palmeiro, whose RBI single capped a three-run ninth Sunday that gave Houston a 5-4 win over Montreal.
“Maybe a couple of things can go our way to get on a hot streak.”
Houston, however, remained six games back in the NL wild-card chase. The Astros, who had lost six of seven before Sunday’s victory, had been 0-51 in games when trailing after eight innings.
“Hopefully, we’ll use that as a springboard for some more kind of wins like that,” Astros manager Phil Garner said.
The Phillies got no such momentum boost Sunday, falling to 1-6 on their 10-game homestand with a 3-1 loss to San Francisco.
In suffering a three-game sweep to the Giants, the Phillies fell eight games behind first-place Atlanta and dropped to .500 for the first time since May 8.
“We’ve been inconsistent all year,” manager Larry Bowa said.
“That’s why we’re where we’re at. You need everything to click.”
Philadelphia came away from the weekend 4 1/2 games behind the wild card leaders, but goes into this series having lost four straight and six of seven.
“Pretty much the worst has happened, getting to .500,” Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. “There’s only one way to go. You have to build up. Fortunately, we’re not out of it. It’s a long way to look at the division right now, but that’s why they invented the wild card.”
While Philadelphia expects to get back third baseman David Bell after he missed a week due to back spasms, the status of slugger Jim Thome remains uncertain due to a bruised collarbone. Thome has missed the last two games.