Arizona (23-16) at Houston (14-23)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 75° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Tue May 17, 2005
  • TV: FSAZ, FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Arizona Diamondbacks have quickly put one of the worst seasons in baseball history behind them.

Arizona looks to make it six wins in seven games and maintain its grip on first place in the NL West when it begins a three-game series against the Houston Astros.

After winning 84 games in 2003, the Diamondbacks were a major league-worst 51-11 last season, the fifth-worst turnaround in major league history.

This offseason was a very busy one for the Diamondbacks, who signed free agent second baseman Craig Counsell, third baseman Troy Glaus, pitchers Russ Ortiz and Shawn Estes, shortstop Royce Clayton and first baseman Tony Clark. Through trades, they acquired pitcher Javier Vazquez, right fielder Shawn Green and center fielder Jose Cruz Jr.

Those moves appear to be paying off as surprising Arizona has won five of six to move into first place in the NL West.

“You know, I think the 111 losses is so irrelevant to most of this team, because we weren’t a part of it,” Counsell said. “I don’t even consider that. It’s a different team.”

Counsell hit his first home run since July and Alex Cintron drove in two runs to lead Arizona to a 5-4 victory at Colorado on Sunday.

The Diamondbacks are 23-16 after 39 games. At this point last season, they were 16-23.

“You find that the teams that have success at the end of the year, they get contributions from a lot of people,” Counsell said. “The big guys are going to do it, but everybody else has to pick it up.”

Vazquez, acquired from the Yankees in the Randy Johnson deal, has been a major factor in Arizona’s turnaround.

Since pitching poorly in his first three starts, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last five outings. He held an opponent to two runs or fewer for the fifth straight appearance against Washington on Wednesday, giving up six hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings before leaving without a decision.

Glaus is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday after sitting out Sunday with left knee injury.

Morgan Ensberg hit three home runs, and Brandon Backe pitched a four-hitter for his first career shutout, leading the Astros to a 9-0 victory over San Francisco on Sunday.

The best game of Ensberg’s career came on the same day Houston learned that first baseman Jeff Bagwell will be out at least three months after undergoing shoulder surgery next month.

“I think it’s going to affect the ballclub a great deal,” Ensberg said. “I think a lot of people don’t understand what Jeff Bagwell’s presence in the lineup means to us.”

The Astros, who can match a season-best three-game win streak Tuesday, are batting a NL-worst .245.

“I hope we are a team that can take the momentum from tonight and start winning more games,” Ensberg said. “That’s what this is all about.”

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Starting Pitchers

J. Vázquez Mia vs. R. Oswalt Col
11-15 Record 20-12
4.42 ERA 2.94
192 K 184
46 BB 48
1.25 WHIP 1.20