The Houston Astros were bound to win at some point. Four straight losses, however, were more than enough.
Houston hopes to build on its first victory of the season Sunday when it completes a three-game series against the struggling St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros (1-4) became the last major league team to break into the win column Saturday, when ace Roy Oswalt pitched a five-hitter in a 5-1 victory over the Cardinals.
Houston, which avoided its worst start since opening the 1983 season 0-9, has won six of its last seven games against St. Louis (1-4).
“Anytime you lose four straight, whether it be at the beginning of the season or in the middle of the season, you start to get kind of a bad feeling and it’s good to erase that and turn the page,” Houston’s Lance Berkman said. “Now we can just focus on trying to win this series and go on the road and have a good road trip.”
Besides the dominant performance from Oswalt, the Astros had to be pleased that their main power sources - Berkman and Carlos Lee - both hit their first home runs of the season.
Lee, signed to a six-year, $100 million contract in the offseason to boost an offense that ranked last in the National League in 2006, had been 3-for-15 with no extra-base hits in his first four games.
“It feels good just to get a win,’ Lee said. “We pitched well, we hit well. That’s what it’s going to take. The home run … it doesn’t matter if you hit a home run and you lose. It doesn’t mean anything.”
Berkman’s homer was his 100th at Minute Maid Park. Only one other player has 100 or more homers at the Astros’ ballpark which opened in 2000 - Jeff Bagwell, who holds the record with 108.
Jason Jennings (0-0, 1.50 ERA) impressed in his Astros debut Tuesday, limiting the Pirates to one run and five hits over six innings with one walk and seven strikeouts. He left with a 2-1 lead but failed to pick up a win after Houston’s bullpen allowed two runs in the eighth inning.
Jennings, who spent his first six seasons with Colorado, is 3-3 with a 3.52 ERA in seven career starts against the Cardinals.
St. Louis’ start is its worst after five games since it opened the 1997 season with six straight losses.
A listless offense has been the biggest culprit. The Cardinals have scored a major league-low seven runs in five games while batting .192 (29-for-151).
Albert Pujols went hitless in four at-bats Saturday and is 1-for-17 with no RBIs this season. Pujols, though, is 7-for-21 with two homers and three RBIs against Jennings.
Kip Wells (0-1, 3.00), a Houston native and former college teammate of Jennings at Baylor, starts for the Cardinals. Wells didn’t pitch badly in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday, allowing four runs - two earned - and five hits in six innings, but his defense committed two errors behind him.
“For the most part I liked the way I threw,” Wells said. “But there are always things I’m in control of and can do better, and that’s what I’ll work on.”
Wells, who pitched for Pittsburgh from 2002-06, is 3-6 with a 5.03 ERA in 13 career starts against the Astros.