Slow starts have been a pattern for the Houston Astros the last few years, but the past few weeks have been particularly tough.
A day after ending a 10-game losing streak, Houston hopes June will provide better luck when the team begins a three-game home series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.
The Astros (22-31) avoided matching their longest skid in franchise history with a 10-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. Lance Berkman hit a three-run homer and Mark Loretta scored three times after going 4-for-5.
“You knew, sooner or later, it was going to end,” said Craig Biggio, who went 3-for-5 with two runs scored. “It was nice to end it in this fashion.”
The Astros, who had been held to four or fewer runs in each game of the losing streak, tied a season-high with 16 hits.
“It was a nice night, obviously,” said Houston manager Phil Garner. “One we definitely needed.”
With the win, the Astros moved ahead of the Reds, who now have the worst record in the National League. They finished the month 12-17—actually the team’s best record for the month over the last three years.
In 2006, Houston went 11-19 in May, while in 2005, it was 10-19 before eventually winning its first NL title.
The Astros will hand the ball to Roy Oswalt (6-4, 3.36 ERA), who hopes to lead the team to back-to-back wins for the first time since a four-game winning streak from May 12-16.
The right-hander was responsible for two of the losses during the losing stretch, including Sunday’s 8-4 loss to Arizona. He allowed six runs and 10 hits in six innings.
Oswalt is 8-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 20 regular-season appearances—19 starts— against the Cardinals (22-29). He pitched a five-hitter against them in a 5-1 win on April 7.
The Cardinals will counter with Adam Wainwright (4-4, 5.59), who has alternated wins and losses in his last four starts.
Wainwright allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings against the Washington Nationals on Sunday, but he received only one run in support in the eventual 7-2 loss.
The 6-foot-7 right-hander has won both of his starts against the Astros this season, allowing three runs over a combined 13 innings. The former reliever, who entered the rotation this season, had posted a 3.24 ERA in six relief appearances against Houston prior to this season.
The defending World Series champs also struggled in May, finishing 12-15, but they won six of the final 10 games, including two straight to close the month against the Colorado Rockies.
St. Louis won 7-3 on Thursday despite Albert Pujols having the night off because he was “wearing down,” according to manager Tony La Russa.
“Everyone here’s a major leaguer,” La Russa said. “Every player is a winning player.”
St. Louis is 4-2 against Houston this year.