After staying tied atop the major leagues with his 14th homer, Berkman looks to continue his torrid stretch as the Astros go for their 11th win in 13 games when they face the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.
Berkman’s two-run shot in the first inning Thursday helped Houston (23-18) improve to 10-2 in May with a 6-3 victory over San Francisco. Though he went hitless in his next three at-bats, the switch-hitter is batting .560 (28-for-50) with six home runs, 17 RBIs and 18 runs during a 13-game hitting streak.
Though he entered this series a career .213 hitter at AT&T Park, Berkman is 5-for-11 with two homers in the four-game set.
Berkman, however, will have his work cut out for him as the Giants send Tim Lincecum (5-1, 1.61 ERA) to the mound for the series finale.
Lincecum is second in the NL in ERA and third in strikeouts (53), and has recorded a quality start in each of his seven outings this year - one shy of tying for the major league lead.
The right-hander held Philadelphia to two runs and four hits while striking out eight in eight innings Saturday. After putting two on with no outs in the fifth inning, he struck out the next two batters and induced a ground ball to get out of the jam, and the Giants (17-24) cruised to an 8-2 win.
“When he gets in a crisis-type situation, he keeps his composure and has a knack for turning it up a notch,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the team’s official Web site.
Lincecum has allowed only two earned runs in 15 innings spanning two career starts against the Astros. He’s struck out 14 while allowing seven hits in those games - both Giants wins.
Houston’s Chris Sampson (2-3, 6.27) will take the mound Thursday hoping for a repeat performance of his last game. The right-hander had given up 10 runs in 7 2-3 innings over two starts before limiting the Los Angeles Dodgers to three hits through seven innings of a 5-0 win Saturday.
“That’s the Chris Sampson we’ve been looking for,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “He was in command throughout. He was really efficient early, pitching down in the strike zone, mixing his pitches in and out, using his changeup and throwing his two-seamer to get the ball to sink and run. That was vintage Sampson tonight.”
Sampson knows he’ll need more games like that one to help the Astros stay competitive in spite of their thin starting rotation.
“It was a good feeling out there, but it’s only one outing,” he said. “We still have a lot to do, and I’ve got to build on this.”
Sampson is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in two career starts against the Giants.