The Houston Astros feel their offense is finally living up to expectations, especially at home.
The Astros try to continue that success when they meet the Philadelphia Phillies in the middle contest of a three-game series on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.
Houston (36-47) has won seven of its last eight games at home, including a 7-5 victory over the Phillies (42-41) in Monday’s opener. The Astros improved to 4-1 on their current 11-game homestand, averaging 7.2 runs and batting .299 with nine homers during that stretch.
“We feel like this is more what this offense is here to do, what we’re capable of,” said Astros rookie Hunter Pence, who hit a two-run homer. “Every day, we’ve got to come to the park to keep the offense rolling.”
Pence is batting .342 with nine homers and 38 RBIs this season, and has reached base in 28 of his last 35 games. Carlos Lee, the Astros’ only All-Star selection, also homered Monday and finished with two RBIs to boost his NL-leading total to 70.
Craig Biggio was 3-for-5 with two doubles and became the 27th player to reach 1,000 extra-base hits.
“We’ve been swinging the bats really well over the last few weeks,” said Biggio, who has 3,007 career hits. “We’re really getting contributions from a lot of people. Hunter Pence, doing his thing, has been a huge lift for us.”
Biggio is 7-for-15 with two homers during his career versus Adam Eaton (7-5, 5.75 ERA), who will take the mound for Philadelphia and try to slow the Astros’ hot lineup.
The right-hander has allowed 11 runs over the last 11 1-3 innings, allowing opponents to hit .318. He gave up five runs and six hits, including two homers, over six innings on Thursday in Philadelphia’s 8-7, 10-inning win over Cincinnati.
Eaton is 3-1 with a 4.41 ERA in five career starts versus the Astros, recording 31 strikeouts and 11 walks. The Phillies have dropped four of their last five games, despite the efforts of Shane Victorino.
The right fielder homered on Monday, along with Pat Burrell, and dived into the stands trying to catch a foul ball. He remained in the game, but said his ribs hurt.
“Later, I realized it was not so smart of a play,” said Victorino, who is 5-for-8 with two homers over the last two games. “Fortunately, I ended up not being hurt. After I look at it on a replay, it was stupid. You’ve got to be smart. I have a career. I could’ve ended up hurting myself.”
Victorino is batting .444 (8-for-18) versus the Astros this season, but will face Houston ace Roy Oswalt (7-5, 3.42) on Tuesday. The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.63 ERA in seven career games versus the Phillies and has earned a win in five straight appearances against them, including a 9-6 victory on April 13.
He earned that win despite allowing six earned runs and six walks - both season highs - over five innings.
Oswalt is 5-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 home starts. He allowed one run and nine hits over seven innings while walking two and striking out four in Thursday’s 8-5, 11-inning win over Colorado at Minute Maid Park.
Oswalt is one of five players on an Internet ballot for the final NL All-Star spot.