Houston is one-half game behind NL wild card leader Philadelphia in a crowded race. The Astros are one-half game ahead of Florida and one game in front of Washington.
“It’d be easy to live and die with every game from this point forward, but we can’t do that,” Astros first baseman Lance Berkman said. “I think you just have to recognize that it’s going to be a dogfight down to the end and it’s pretty safe to say that this thing is not going to resolve itself until the last day of the season.”
Houston completed a 6-7 homestand with an 8-3 victory over Milwaukee on Sunday. The Astros began the stretch in the lead for the wild card and lost ground as their bats struggled.
“It wasn’t exactly what I wanted,” Houston manager Phil Garner said. “It’s good to end on a winning note, but I had expected better.”
Houston dropped all six games on the homestand in which it managed to score two runs or fewer. It visits Los Angeles for three games after this series.
The Astros will begin the trip with Roy Oswalt on the mound. Oswalt is 0-2 with a 4.67 ERA in his last four starts.
“It just hasn’t been going my way the last two or three starts,” Oswalt said.
The 27-year-old right-hander gave up four runs and eight hits over seven innings in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs last Wednesday. His last win came on July 26.
Oswalt pitched a five-hitter in a 4-1 win over San Diego on July 4. He improved to 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA against the Padres in eight career appearances, including six starts.
San Diego missed a chance at a three-game sweep at Atlanta with a 6-2 loss on Sunday. The Padres again dropped below the .500 mark at 61-62, but remained four games ahead of second-place Arizona in the mediocre NL West division.
The Padres have lost four of their last five home games, scoring only 10 runs in the process. They realize they have their work cut out for them in this series with Houston starting Oswalt in the opener and NL ERA leader Roger Clemens in the second game.
“When we get back home, we face some tough righties,” San Diego manager Bruce Bochy said.
The Padres are 14-23 at home since May 31.