The Houston Astros have a share of the wild-card lead. They also have momentum, and are at home, where they have won a franchise-record 15 in a row.
But they will be wary of the lowly Colorado Rockies as they open a season-ending three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros are tied with San Francisco for the NL wild card after sweeping the major league-leading St. Louis Cardinals with a 6-4 victory on Wednesday. Jeff Kent hit his 300th career homer and Jeff Bagwell added two RBIs as Houston surpassed its best home winning streak set in 1980 at the Astrodome.
It was the Astros’ 10th victory in 13 games overall as they continued an amazing run back into the thick of the playoff race.
Houston was fifth in the NL Central at 44-44 at the All-Star break, when it replaced fired manager Jimy Williams with Phil Garner. Since Aug. 15, the Astros have the best record in the majors at 33-10.
“We’re trying to get our ticket to the dance,” said Roger Clemens. “At one point it looked like we weren’t invited and we were just going to drop in on everybody.”
Houston will try to avoid a repeat of last season, when it needed to win three of its final four games against last-place Milwaukee to force a division tiebreaker with the Chicago Cubs. The Astros went 2-2 against the Brewers, allowing Chicago to capture the NL Central title.
“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t let our guard down at all,” Astros closer Brad Lidge said.
Pete Munro, who starts for the Astros on Friday, agreed.
“In the last three games of the year, they’re going to be important no matter who we’re playing,” he said. “Especially the Rockies. Those guys can hit.”
Heading into their four-game series finale with Los Angeles on Thursday, the Rockies had the second-best batting average (.275) in the NL behind St. Louis (.277) and ranked fourth in homers (200).
Todd Helton extended his hitting streak to 10 games as the Rockies lost 4-2, dropping three of four to the NL West-leading Dodgers.
The Rockies will start Joe Kennedy, who has posted career bests in wins (9) and ERA (3.62). The left-hander is going for his career high-tying fourth straight victory. Kennedy won four in a row from Aug. 19-Oct. 5, 2001 and matched that mark to begin this season.
He beat the Astros 4-1 in his lone career start against them at Coors Field on April 25, allowing one run and five hits over 6 1-3 innings.
“I’m not looking past the Colorado Rockies,” Bagwell said. “The kid that pitched against us out there pitched a great game against us.”